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Title: His Last Bow: An Epilogue of Sherlock Holmes
Author: Doyle, Arthur Conan
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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cover



His Last Bow



by Arthur Conan Doyle



Contents


 The Adventure of Wisteria Lodge
 The Adventure of the Bruce-Partington Plans
 The Adventure of the Devil's Foot
 The Adventure of the Red Circle
 The Disappearance of Lady Frances Carfax
 The Adventure of the Dying Detective
 His Last Bow: The War Service of Sherlock Holmes



The Adventure of Wisteria Lodge

 The Singular Experience of Mr. John Scott Eccles The Tiger of San
 Pedro

 1. The Singular Experience of Mr. John Scott Eccles



I find it recorded in my notebook that it was a bleak and windy day
towards the end of March in the year 1892. Holmes had received a
telegram while we sat at our lunch, and he had scribbled a reply. He
made no remark, but the matter remained in his thoughts, for he stood
in front of the fire afterwards with a thoughtful face, smoking his
pipe, and casting an occasional glance at the message. Suddenly he
turned upon me with a mischievous twinkle in his eyes.

"I suppose, Watson, we must look upon you as a man of letters," said
he. "How do you define the word 'grotesque'?"

"Strange—remarkable," I suggested.

He shook his head at my definition.

"There is surely something more than that," said he; "some underlying
suggestion of the tragic and the terrible. If you cast your mind back
to some of those narratives with which you have afflicted a
long-suffering public, you will recognize how often the grotesque has
deepened into the criminal. Think of that little affair of the
red-headed men. That was grotesque enough in the outset, and yet it
ended in a desperate attempt at robbery. Or, again, there was that most
grotesque affair of the five orange pips, which led straight to a
murderous conspiracy. The word puts me on the alert."

"Have you it there?" I asked.

He read the telegram aloud.

 "Have just had most incredible and grotesque experience. May I consult
 you?
 "Scott Eccles, "Post Office, Charing Cross."


"Man or woman?" I asked.

"Oh, man, of course. No woman would ever send a reply-paid telegram.
She would have come."

"Will you see him?"

"My dear Watson, you know how bored I have been since we locked up
Colonel Carruthers. My mind is like a racing engine, tearing itself to
pieces because it is not connected up with the work for which it was
built. Life is commonplace, the papers are sterile; audacity and
romance seem to have passed forever from the criminal world. Can you
ask me, then, whether I am ready to look into any new problem, however
trivial it may prove? But here, unless I am mistaken, is our client."

A measured step was heard upon the stairs, and a moment later a stout,
tall, gray-whiskered and solemnly respectable person was ushered into
the room. His life history was written in his heavy features and
pompous manner. From his spats to his gold-rimmed spectacles he was a
Conservative, a churchman, a good citizen, orthodox and conventional to
the last degree. But some amazing experience had disturbed his native
composure and left its traces in his bristling hair, his flushed, angry
cheeks, and his flurried, excited manner. He plunged instantly into his
business.

"I have had a most singular and unpleasant experience, Mr. Holmes,"
said he. "Never in my life have I been placed in such a situation. It
is most improper—most outrageous. I must insist upon some explanation."
He swelled and puffed in his anger.

"Pray sit down, Mr. Scott Eccles," said Holmes in a soothing voice.
"May I ask, in the first place, why you came to me at all?"

"Well, sir, it did not appear to be a matter which concerned the
police, and yet, when you have heard the facts, you must admit that I
could not leave it where it was. Private detectives are a class with
whom I have absolutely no sympathy, but none the less, having heard
your name—"

"Quite so. But, in the second place, why did you not come at once?"

Holmes glanced at his watch.

"It is a quarter-past two," he said. "Your telegram was dispatched
about one. But no one can glance at your toilet and attire without
seeing that your disturbance dates from the moment of your waking."

Our client smoothed down his unbrushed hair and felt his unshaven chin.

"You are right, Mr. Holmes. I never gave a thought to my toilet. I was
only too glad to get out of such a house. But I have been running round
making inquiries before I came to you. I went to the house agents, you
know, and they said that Mr. Garcia's rent was paid up all right and
that everything was in order at Wisteria Lodge."

"Come, come, sir," said Holmes, laughing. "You are like my friend, Dr.
Watson, who has a bad habit of telling his stories wrong end foremost.
Please arrange your thoughts and let me know, in their due sequence,
exactly what those events are which have sent you out unbrushed and
unkempt, with dress boots and waistcoat buttoned awry, in search of
advice and assistance."

Our client looked down with a rueful face at his own unconventional
appearance.

"I'm sure it must look very bad, Mr. Holmes, and I am not aware that in
my whole life such a thing has ever happened before. But I will tell
you the whole queer business, and when I have done so you will admit, I
am sure, that there has been enough to excuse me."

But his narrative was nipped in the bud. There was a bustle outside,
and Mrs. Hudson opened the door to usher in two robust and
official-looking individuals, one of whom was well known to us as
Inspector Gregson of Scotland Yard, an energetic, gallant, and, within
his limitations, a capable officer. He shook hands with Holmes and
introduced his comrade as Inspector Baynes, of the Surrey Constabulary.

"We are hunting together, Mr. Holmes, and our trail lay in this
direction." He turned his bulldog eyes upon our visitor. "Are you Mr.
John Scott Eccles, of Popham House, Lee?"

"I am."

"We have been following you about all the morning."

"You traced him through the telegram, no doubt," said Holmes.

"Exactly, Mr. Holmes. We picked up the scent at Charing Cross
Post-Office and came on here."

"But why do you follow me? What do you want?"

"We wish a statement, Mr. Scott Eccles, as to the events which led up
to the death last night of Mr. Aloysius Garcia, of Wisteria Lodge, near
Esher."

Our client had sat up with staring eyes and every tinge of colour
struck from his astonished face.

"Dead? Did you say he was dead?"

"Yes, sir, he is dead."

"But how? An accident?"

"Murder, if ever there was one upon earth."

"Good God! This is awful! You don't mean—you don't mean that I am
suspected?"

"A letter of yours was found in the dead man's pocket, and we know by
it that you had planned to pass last night at his house."

"So I did."

"Oh, you did, did you?"

Out came the official notebook.

"Wait a bit, Gregson," said Sherlock Holmes. "All you desire is a plain
statement, is it not?"

"And it is my duty to warn Mr. Scott Eccles that it may be used against
him."

"Mr. Eccles was going to tell us about it when you entered the room. I
think, Watson, a brandy and soda would do him no harm. Now, sir, I
suggest that you take no notice of this addition to your audience, and
that you proceed with your narrative exactly as you would have done had
you never been interrupted."

Our visitor had gulped off the brandy and the colour had returned to
his face. With a dubious glance at the inspector's notebook, he plunged
at once into his extraordinary statement.

"I am a bachelor," said he, "and being of a sociable turn I cultivate a
large number of friends. Among these are the family of a retired brewer
called Melville, living at Abermarle Mansion, Kensington. It was at his
table that I met some weeks ago a young fellow named Garcia. He was, I
understood, of Spanish descent and connected in some way with the
embassy. He spoke perfect English, was pleasing in his manners, and as
good-looking a man as ever I saw in my life.

"In some way we struck up quite a friendship, this young fellow and I.
He seemed to take a fancy to me from the first, and within two days of
our meeting he came to see me at Lee. One thing led to another, and it
ended in his inviting me out to spend a few days at his house, Wisteria
Lodge, between Esher and Oxshott. Yesterday evening I went to Esher to
fulfil this engagement.

"He had described his household to me before I went there. He lived
with a faithful servant, a countryman of his own, who looked after all
his needs. This fellow could speak English and did his housekeeping for
him. Then there was a wonderful cook, he said, a half-breed whom he had
picked up in his travels, who could serve an excellent dinner. I
remember that he remarked what a queer household it was to find in the
heart of Surrey, and that I agreed with him, though it has proved a
good deal queerer than I thought.

"I drove to the place—about two miles on the south side of Esher. The
house was a fair-sized one, standing back from the road, with a curving
drive which was banked with high evergreen shrubs. It was an old,
tumbledown building in a crazy state of disrepair. When the trap pulled
up on the grass-grown drive in front of the blotched and
weather-stained door, I had doubts as to my wisdom in visiting a man
whom I knew so slightly. He opened the door himself, however, and
greeted me with a great show of cordiality. I was handed over to the
manservant, a melancholy, swarthy individual, who led the way, my bag
in his hand, to my bedroom. The whole place was depressing. Our dinner
was tete-a-tete, and though my host did his best to be entertaining,
his thoughts seemed to continually wander, and he talked so vaguely and
wildly that I could hardly understand him. He continually drummed his
fingers on the table, gnawed his nails, and gave other signs of nervous
impatience. The dinner itself was neither well served nor well cooked,
and the gloomy presence of the taciturn servant did not help to enliven
us. I can assure you that many times in the course of the evening I
wished that I could invent some excuse which would take me back to Lee.

"One thing comes back to my memory which may have a bearing upon the
business that you two gentlemen are investigating. I thought nothing of
it at the time. Near the end of dinner a note was handed in by the
servant. I noticed that after my host had read it he seemed even more
distrait and strange than before. He gave up all pretence at
conversation and sat, smoking endless cigarettes, lost in his own
thoughts, but he made no remark as to the contents. About eleven I was
glad to go to bed. Some time later Garcia looked in at my door—the room
was dark at the time—and asked me if I had rung. I said that I had not.
He apologized for having disturbed me so late, saying that it was
nearly one o'clock. I dropped off after this and slept soundly all
night.

"And now I come to the amazing part of my tale. When I woke it was
broad daylight. I glanced at my watch, and the time was nearly nine. I
had particularly asked to be called at eight, so I was very much
astonished at this forgetfulness. I sprang up and rang for the servant.
There was no response. I rang again and again, with the same result.
Then I came to the conclusion that the bell was out of order. I huddled
on my clothes and hurried downstairs in an exceedingly bad temper to
order some hot water. You can imagine my surprise when I found that
there was no one there. I shouted in the hall. There was no answer.
Then I ran from room to room. All were deserted. My host had shown me
which was his bedroom the night before, so I knocked at the door. No
reply. I turned the handle and walked in. The room was empty, and the
bed had never been slept in. He had gone with the rest. The foreign
host, the foreign footman, the foreign cook, all had vanished in the
night! That was the end of my visit to Wisteria Lodge."

Sherlock Holmes was rubbing his hands and chuckling as he added this
bizarre incident to his collection of strange episodes.

"Your experience is, so far as I know, perfectly unique," said he. "May
I ask, sir, what you did then?"

"I was furious. My first idea was that I had been the victim of some
absurd practical joke. I packed my things, banged the hall door behind
me, and set off for Esher, with my bag in my hand. I called at Allan
Brothers', the chief land agents in the village, and found that it was
from this firm that the villa had been rented. It struck me that the
whole proceeding could hardly be for the purpose of making a fool of
me, and that the main object must be to get out of the rent. It is late
in March, so quarter-day is at hand. But this theory would not work.
The agent was obliged to me for my warning, but told me that the rent
had been paid in advance. Then I made my way to town and called at the
Spanish embassy. The man was unknown there. After this I went to see
Melville, at whose house I had first met Garcia, but I found that he
really knew rather less about him than I did. Finally when I got your
reply to my wire I came out to you, since I gather that you are a
person who gives advice in difficult cases. But now, Mr. Inspector, I
understand, from what you said when you entered the room, that you can
carry the story on, and that some tragedy had occurred. I can assure
you that every word I have said is the truth, and that, outside of what
I have told you, I know absolutely nothing about the fate of this man.
My only desire is to help the law in every possible way."

"I am sure of it, Mr. Scott Eccles—I am sure of it," said Inspector
Gregson in a very amiable tone. "I am bound to say that everything
which you have said agrees very closely with the facts as they have
come to our notice. For example, there was that note which arrived
during dinner. Did you chance to observe what became of it?"

"Yes, I did. Garcia rolled it up and threw it into the fire."

"What do you say to that, Mr. Baynes?"

The country detective was a stout, puffy, red man, whose face was only
redeemed from grossness by two extraordinarily bright eyes, almost
hidden behind the heavy creases of cheek and brow. With a slow smile he
drew a folded and discoloured scrap of paper from his pocket.

"It was a dog-grate, Mr. Holmes, and he overpitched it. I picked this
out unburned from the back of it."

Holmes smiled his appreciation.

"You must have examined the house very carefully to find a single
pellet of paper."

"I did, Mr. Holmes. It's my way. Shall I read it, Mr. Gregson?"

The Londoner nodded.

"The note is written upon ordinary cream-laid paper without watermark.
It is a quarter-sheet. The paper is cut off in two snips with a
short-bladed scissors. It has been folded over three times and sealed
with purple wax, put on hurriedly and pressed down with some flat oval
object. It is addressed to Mr. Garcia, Wisteria Lodge. It says:

"Our own colours, green and white. Green open, white shut. Main stair,
first corridor, seventh right, green baize. Godspeed. D.

"It is a woman's writing, done with a sharp-pointed pen, but the
address is either done with another pen or by someone else. It is
thicker and bolder, as you see."

"A very remarkable note," said Holmes, glancing it over. "I must
compliment you, Mr. Baynes, upon your attention to detail in your
examination of it. A few trifling points might perhaps be added. The
oval seal is undoubtedly a plain sleeve-link—what else is of such a
shape? The scissors were bent nail scissors. Short as the two snips
are, you can distinctly see the same slight curve in each."

The country detective chuckled.

"I thought I had squeezed all the juice out of it, but I see there was
a little over," he said. "I'm bound to say that I make nothing of the
note except that there was something on hand, and that a woman, as
usual was at the bottom of it."

Mr. Scott Eccles had fidgeted in his seat during this conversation.

"I am glad you found the note, since it corroborates my story," said
he. "But I beg to point out that I have not yet heard what has happened
to Mr. Garcia, nor what has become of his household."

"As to Garcia," said Gregson, "that is easily answered. He was found
dead this morning upon Oxshott Common, nearly a mile from his home. His
head had been smashed to pulp by heavy blows of a sandbag or some such
instrument, which had crushed rather than wounded. It is a lonely
corner, and there is no house within a quarter of a mile of the spot.
He had apparently been struck down first from behind, but his assailant
had gone on beating him long after he was dead. It was a most furious
assault. There are no footsteps nor any clue to the criminals."

"Robbed?"

"No, there was no attempt at robbery."

"This is very painful—very painful and terrible," said Mr. Scott Eccles
in a querulous voice, "but it is really uncommonly hard on me. I had
nothing to do with my host going off upon a nocturnal excursion and
meeting so sad an end. How do I come to be mixed up with the case?"

"Very simply, sir," Inspector Baynes answered. "The only document found
in the pocket of the deceased was a letter from you saying that you
would be with him on the night of his death. It was the envelope of
this letter which gave us the dead man's name and address. It was after
nine this morning when we reached his house and found neither you nor
anyone else inside it. I wired to Mr. Gregson to run you down in London
while I examined Wisteria Lodge. Then I came into town, joined Mr.
Gregson, and here we are."

"I think now," said Gregson, rising, "we had best put this matter into
an official shape. You will come round with us to the station, Mr.
Scott Eccles, and let us have your statement in writing."

"Certainly, I will come at once. But I retain your services, Mr.
Holmes. I desire you to spare no expense and no pains to get at the
truth."

My friend turned to the country inspector.

"I suppose that you have no objection to my collaborating with you, Mr.
Baynes?"

"Highly honoured, sir, I am sure."

"You appear to have been very prompt and businesslike in all that you
have done. Was there any clue, may I ask, as to the exact hour that the
man met his death?"

"He had been there since one o'clock. There was rain about that time,
and his death had certainly been before the rain."

"But that is perfectly impossible, Mr. Baynes," cried our client. "His
voice is unmistakable. I could swear to it that it was he who addressed
me in my bedroom at that very hour."

"Remarkable, but by no means impossible," said Holmes, smiling.

"You have a clue?" asked Gregson.

"On the face of it the case is not a very complex one, though it
certainly presents some novel and interesting features. A further
knowledge of facts is necessary before I would venture to give a final
and definite opinion. By the way, Mr. Baynes, did you find anything
remarkable besides this note in your examination of the house?"

The detective looked at my friend in a singular way.

"There were," said he, "one or two _very_ remarkable things. Perhaps
when I have finished at the police-station you would care to come out
and give me your opinion of them."

"I am entirely at your service," said Sherlock Holmes, ringing the
bell. "You will show these gentlemen out, Mrs. Hudson, and kindly send
the boy with this telegram. He is to pay a five-shilling reply."

We sat for some time in silence after our visitors had left. Holmes
smoked hard, with his browns drawn down over his keen eyes, and his
head thrust forward in the eager way characteristic of the man.

"Well, Watson," he asked, turning suddenly upon me, "what do you make
of it?"

"I can make nothing of this mystification of Scott Eccles."

"But the crime?"

"Well, taken with the disappearance of the man's companions, I should
say that they were in some way concerned in the murder and had fled
from justice."

"That is certainly a possible point of view. On the face of it you must
admit, however, that it is very strange that his two servants should
have been in a conspiracy against him and should have attacked him on
the one night when he had a guest. They had him alone at their mercy
every other night in the week."

"Then why did they fly?"

"Quite so. Why did they fly? There is a big fact. Another big fact is
the remarkable experience of our client, Scott Eccles. Now, my dear
Watson, is it beyond the limits of human ingenuity to furnish an
explanation which would cover both of these big facts? If it were one
which would also admit of the mysterious note with its very curious
phraseology, why, then it would be worth accepting as a temporary
hypothesis. If the fresh facts which come to our knowledge all fit
themselves into the scheme, then our hypothesis may gradually become a
solution."

"But what is our hypothesis?"

Holmes leaned back in his chair with half-closed eyes.

"You must admit, my dear Watson, that the idea of a joke is impossible.
There were grave events afoot, as the sequel showed, and the coaxing of
Scott Eccles to Wisteria Lodge had some connection with them."

"But what possible connection?"

"Let us take it link by link. There is, on the face of it, something
unnatural about this strange and sudden friendship between the young
Spaniard and Scott Eccles. It was the former who forced the pace. He
called upon Eccles at the other end of London on the very day after he
first met him, and he kept in close touch with him until he got him
down to Esher. Now, what did he want with Eccles? What could Eccles
supply? I see no charm in the man. He is not particularly
intelligent—not a man likely to be congenial to a quick-witted Latin.
Why, then, was he picked out from all the other people whom Garcia met
as particularly suited to his purpose? Has he any one outstanding
quality? I say that he has. He is the very type of conventional British
respectability, and the very man as a witness to impress another
Briton. You saw yourself how neither of the inspectors dreamed of
questioning his statement, extraordinary as it was."

"But what was he to witness?"

"Nothing, as things turned out, but everything had they gone another
way. That is how I read the matter."

"I see, he might have proved an alibi."

"Exactly, my dear Watson; he might have proved an alibi. We will
suppose, for argument's sake, that the household of Wisteria Lodge are
confederates in some design. The attempt, whatever it may be, is to
come off, we will say, before one o'clock. By some juggling of the
clocks it is quite possible that they may have got Scott Eccles to bed
earlier than he thought, but in any case it is likely that when Garcia
went out of his way to tell him that it was one it was really not more
than twelve. If Garcia could do whatever he had to do and be back by
the hour mentioned he had evidently a powerful reply to any accusation.
Here was this irreproachable Englishman ready to swear in any court of
law that the accused was in the house all the time. It was an insurance
against the worst."

"Yes, yes, I see that. But how about the disappearance of the others?"

"I have not all my facts yet, but I do not think there are any
insuperable difficulties. Still, it is an error to argue in front of
your data. You find yourself insensibly twisting them round to fit your
theories."

"And the message?"

"How did it run? 'Our own colours, green and white.' Sounds like
racing. 'Green open, white shut.' That is clearly a signal. 'Main
stair, first corridor, seventh right, green baize.' This is an
assignation. We may find a jealous husband at the bottom of it all. It
was clearly a dangerous quest. She would not have said 'Godspeed' had
it not been so. 'D'—that should be a guide."

"The man was a Spaniard. I suggest that 'D' stands for Dolores, a
common female name in Spain."

"Good, Watson, very good—but quite inadmissable. A Spaniard would write
to a Spaniard in Spanish. The writer of this note is certainly English.
Well, we can only possess our soul in patience until this excellent
inspector come back for us. Meanwhile we can thank our lucky fate which
has rescued us for a few short hours from the insufferable fatigues of
idleness."


An answer had arrived to Holmes's telegram before our Surrey officer
had returned. Holmes read it and was about to place it in his notebook
when he caught a glimpse of my expectant face. He tossed it across with
a laugh.

"We are moving in exalted circles," said he.

The telegram was a list of names and addresses:

Lord Harringby, The Dingle; Sir George Ffolliott, Oxshott Towers; Mr.
Hynes Hynes, J.P., Purdley Place; Mr. James Baker Williams, Forton Old
Hall; Mr. Henderson, High Gable; Rev. Joshua Stone, Nether Walsling.

"This is a very obvious way of limiting our field of operations," said
Holmes. "No doubt Baynes, with his methodical mind, has already adopted
some similar plan."

"I don't quite understand."

"Well, my dear fellow, we have already arrived at the conclusion that
the message received by Garcia at dinner was an appointment or an
assignation. Now, if the obvious reading of it is correct, and in order
to keep the tryst one has to ascend a main stair and seek the seventh
door in a corridor, it is perfectly clear that the house is a very
large one. It is equally certain that this house cannot be more than a
mile or two from Oxshott, since Garcia was walking in that direction
and hoped, according to my reading of the facts, to be back in Wisteria
Lodge in time to avail himself of an alibi, which would only be valid
up to one o'clock. As the number of large houses close to Oxshott must
be limited, I adopted the obvious method of sending to the agents
mentioned by Scott Eccles and obtaining a list of them. Here they are
in this telegram, and the other end of our tangled skein must lie among
them."


It was nearly six o'clock before we found ourselves in the pretty
Surrey village of Esher, with Inspector Baynes as our companion.

Holmes and I had taken things for the night, and found comfortable
quarters at the Bull. Finally we set out in the company of the
detective on our visit to Wisteria Lodge. It was a cold, dark March
evening, with a sharp wind and a fine rain beating upon our faces, a
fit setting for the wild common over which our road passed and the
tragic goal to which it led us.

2. The Tiger of San Pedro



A cold and melancholy walk of a couple of miles brought us to a high
wooden gate, which opened into a gloomy avenue of chestnuts. The curved
and shadowed drive led us to a low, dark house, pitch-black against a
slate-coloured sky. From the front window upon the left of the door
there peeped a glimmer of a feeble light.

"There's a constable in possession," said Baynes. "I'll knock at the
window." He stepped across the grass plot and tapped with his hand on
the pane. Through the fogged glass I dimly saw a man spring up from a
chair beside the fire, and heard a sharp cry from within the room. An
instant later a white-faced, hard-breathing policeman had opened the
door, the candle wavering in his trembling hand.

"What's the matter, Walters?" asked Baynes sharply.

The man mopped his forehead with his handkerchief and gave a long sigh
of relief.

"I am glad you have come, sir. It has been a long evening, and I don't
think my nerve is as good as it was."

"Your nerve, Walters? I should not have thought you had a nerve in your
body."

"Well, sir, it's this lonely, silent house and the queer thing in the
kitchen. Then when you tapped at the window I thought it had come
again."

"That what had come again?"

"The devil, sir, for all I know. It was at the window."

"What was at the window, and when?"

"It was just about two hours ago. The light was just fading. I was
sitting reading in the chair. I don't know what made me look up, but
there was a face looking in at me through the lower pane. Lord, sir,
what a face it was! I'll see it in my dreams."

"Tut, tut, Walters. This is not talk for a police-constable."

"I know, sir, I know; but it shook me, sir, and there's no use to deny
it. It wasn't black, sir, nor was it white, nor any colour that I know
but a kind of queer shade like clay with a splash of milk in it. Then
there was the size of it—it was twice yours, sir. And the look of
it—the great staring goggle eyes, and the line of white teeth like a
hungry beast. I tell you, sir, I couldn't move a finger, nor get my
breath, till it whisked away and was gone. Out I ran and through the
shrubbery, but thank God there was no one there."

"If I didn't know you were a good man, Walters, I should put a black
mark against you for this. If it were the devil himself a constable on
duty should never thank God that he could not lay his hands upon him. I
suppose the whole thing is not a vision and a touch of nerves?"

"That, at least, is very easily settled," said Holmes, lighting his
little pocket lantern. "Yes," he reported, after a short examination of
the grass bed, "a number twelve shoe, I should say. If he was all on
the same scale as his foot he must certainly have been a giant."

"What became of him?"

"He seems to have broken through the shrubbery and made for the road."

"Well," said the inspector with a grave and thoughtful face, "whoever
he may have been, and whatever he may have wanted, he's gone for the
present, and we have more immediate things to attend to. Now, Mr.
Holmes, with your permission, I will show you round the house."

The various bedrooms and sitting-rooms had yielded nothing to a careful
search. Apparently the tenants had brought little or nothing with them,
and all the furniture down to the smallest details had been taken over
with the house. A good deal of clothing with the stamp of Marx and Co.,
High Holborn, had been left behind. Telegraphic inquiries had been
already made which showed that Marx knew nothing of his customer save
that he was a good payer. Odds and ends, some pipes, a few novels, two
of them in Spanish, an old-fashioned pinfire revolver, and a guitar
were among the personal property.

"Nothing in all this," said Baynes, stalking, candle in hand, from room
to room. "But now, Mr. Holmes, I invite your attention to the kitchen."

It was a gloomy, high-ceilinged room at the back of the house, with a
straw litter in one corner, which served apparently as a bed for the
cook. The table was piled with half-eaten dishes and dirty plates, the
debris of last night's dinner.

"Look at this," said Baynes. "What do you make of it?"

He held up his candle before an extraordinary object which stood at the
back of the dresser. It was so wrinkled and shrunken and withered that
it was difficult to say what it might have been. One could but say that
it was black and leathery and that it bore some resemblance to a
dwarfish, human figure. At first, as I examined it, I thought that it
was a mummified negro baby, and then it seemed a very twisted and
ancient monkey. Finally I was left in doubt as to whether it was animal
or human. A double band of white shells were strung round the centre of
it.

"Very interesting—very interesting, indeed!" said Holmes, peering at
this sinister relic. "Anything more?"

In silence Baynes led the way to the sink and held forward his candle.
The limbs and body of some large, white bird, torn savagely to pieces
with the feathers still on, were littered all over it. Holmes pointed
to the wattles on the severed head.

"A white cock," said he. "Most interesting! It is really a very curious
case."

But Mr. Baynes had kept his most sinister exhibit to the last. From
under the sink he drew a zinc pail which contained a quantity of blood.
Then from the table he took a platter heaped with small pieces of
charred bone.

"Something has been killed and something has been burned. We raked all
these out of the fire. We had a doctor in this morning. He says that
they are not human."

Holmes smiled and rubbed his hands.

"I must congratulate you, Inspector, on handling so distinctive and
instructive a case. Your powers, if I may say so without offence, seem
superior to your opportunities."

Inspector Baynes's small eyes twinkled with pleasure.

"You're right, Mr. Holmes. We stagnate in the provinces. A case of this
sort gives a man a chance, and I hope that I shall take it. What do you
make of these bones?"

"A lamb, I should say, or a kid."

"And the white cock?"

"Curious, Mr. Baynes, very curious. I should say almost unique."

"Yes, sir, there must have been some very strange people with some very
strange ways in this house. One of them is dead. Did his companions
follow him and kill him? If they did we should have them, for every
port is watched. But my own views are different. Yes, sir, my own views
are very different."

"You have a theory then?"

"And I'll work it myself, Mr. Holmes. It's only due to my own credit to
do so. Your name is made, but I have still to make mine. I should be
glad to be able to say afterwards that I had solved it without your
help."

Holmes laughed good-humoredly.

"Well, well, Inspector," said he. "Do you follow your path and I will
follow mine. My results are always very much at your service if you
care to apply to me for them. I think that I have seen all that I wish
in this house, and that my time may be more profitably employed
elsewhere. Au revoir and good luck!"

I could tell by numerous subtle signs, which might have been lost upon
anyone but myself, that Holmes was on a hot scent. As impassive as ever
to the casual observer, there were none the less a subdued eagerness
and suggestion of tension in his brightened eyes and brisker manner
which assured me that the game was afoot. After his habit he said
nothing, and after mine I asked no questions. Sufficient for me to
share the sport and lend my humble help to the capture without
distracting that intent brain with needless interruption. All would
come round to me in due time.

I waited, therefore—but to my ever-deepening disappointment I waited in
vain. Day succeeded day, and my friend took no step forward. One
morning he spent in town, and I learned from a casual reference that he
had visited the British Museum. Save for this one excursion, he spent
his days in long and often solitary walks, or in chatting with a number
of village gossips whose acquaintance he had cultivated.

"I'm sure, Watson, a week in the country will be invaluable to you," he
remarked. "It is very pleasant to see the first green shoots upon the
hedges and the catkins on the hazels once again. With a spud, a tin
box, and an elementary book on botany, there are instructive days to be
spent." He prowled about with this equipment himself, but it was a poor
show of plants which he would bring back of an evening.

Occasionally in our rambles we came across Inspector Baynes. His fat,
red face wreathed itself in smiles and his small eyes glittered as he
greeted my companion. He said little about the case, but from that
little we gathered that he also was not dissatisfied at the course of
events. I must admit, however, that I was somewhat surprised when, some
five days after the crime, I opened my morning paper to find in large
letters:

 THE OXSHOTT MYSTERY A SOLUTION ARREST OF SUPPOSED ASSASSIN


Holmes sprang in his chair as if he had been stung when I read the
headlines.

"By Jove!" he cried. "You don't mean that Baynes has got him?"

"Apparently," said I as I read the following report:

"Great excitement was caused in Esher and the neighbouring district
when it was learned late last night that an arrest had been effected in
connection with the Oxshott murder. It will be remembered that Mr.
Garcia, of Wisteria Lodge, was found dead on Oxshott Common, his body
showing signs of extreme violence, and that on the same night his
servant and his cook fled, which appeared to show their participation
in the crime. It was suggested, but never proved, that the deceased
gentleman may have had valuables in the house, and that their
abstraction was the motive of the crime. Every effort was made by
Inspector Baynes, who has the case in hand, to ascertain the hiding
place of the fugitives, and he had good reason to believe that they had
not gone far but were lurking in some retreat which had been already
prepared. It was certain from the first, however, that they would
eventually be detected, as the cook, from the evidence of one or two
tradespeople who have caught a glimpse of him through the window, was a
man of most remarkable appearance—being a huge and hideous mulatto,
with yellowish features of a pronounced negroid type. This man has been
seen since the crime, for he was detected and pursued by Constable
Walters on the same evening, when he had the audacity to revisit
Wisteria Lodge. Inspector Baynes, considering that such a visit must
have some purpose in view and was likely, therefore, to be repeated,
abandoned the house but left an ambuscade in the shrubbery. The man
walked into the trap and was captured last night after a struggle in
which Constable Downing was badly bitten by the savage. We understand
that when the prisoner is brought before the magistrates a remand will
be applied for by the police, and that great developments are hoped
from his capture."

"Really we must see Baynes at once," cried Holmes, picking up his hat.
"We will just catch him before he starts." We hurried down the village
street and found, as we had expected, that the inspector was just
leaving his lodgings.

"You've seen the paper, Mr. Holmes?" he asked, holding one out to us.

"Yes, Baynes, I've seen it. Pray don't think it a liberty if I give you
a word of friendly warning."

"Of warning, Mr. Holmes?"

"I have looked into this case with some care, and I am not convinced
that you are on the right lines. I don't want you to commit yourself
too far unless you are sure."

"You're very kind, Mr. Holmes."

"I assure you I speak for your good."

It seemed to me that something like a wink quivered for an instant over
one of Mr. Baynes's tiny eyes.

"We agreed to work on our own lines, Mr. Holmes. That's what I am
doing."

"Oh, very good," said Holmes. "Don't blame me."

"No, sir; I believe you mean well by me. But we all have our own
systems, Mr. Holmes. You have yours, and maybe I have mine."

"Let us say no more about it."

"You're welcome always to my news. This fellow is a perfect savage, as
strong as a cart-horse and as fierce as the devil. He chewed Downing's
thumb nearly off before they could master him. He hardly speaks a word
of English, and we can get nothing out of him but grunts."

"And you think you have evidence that he murdered his late master?"

"I didn't say so, Mr. Holmes; I didn't say so. We all have our little
ways. You try yours and I will try mine. That's the agreement."

Holmes shrugged his shoulders as we walked away together. "I can't make
the man out. He seems to be riding for a fall. Well, as he says, we
must each try our own way and see what comes of it. But there's
something in Inspector Baynes which I can't quite understand."

"Just sit down in that chair, Watson," said Sherlock Holmes when we had
returned to our apartment at the Bull. "I want to put you in touch with
the situation, as I may need your help to-night. Let me show you the
evolution of this case so far as I have been able to follow it. Simple
as it has been in its leading features, it has none the less presented
surprising difficulties in the way of an arrest. There are gaps in that
direction which we have still to fill.

"We will go back to the note which was handed in to Garcia upon the
evening of his death. We may put aside this idea of Baynes's that
Garcia's servants were concerned in the matter. The proof of this lies
in the fact that it was _he_ who had arranged for the presence of Scott
Eccles, which could only have been done for the purpose of an alibi. It
was Garcia, then, who had an enterprise, and apparently a criminal
enterprise, in hand that night in the course of which he met his death.
I say 'criminal' because only a man with a criminal enterprise desires
to establish an alibi. Who, then, is most likely to have taken his
life? Surely the person against whom the criminal enterprise was
directed. So far it seems to me that we are on safe ground.

"We can now see a reason for the disappearance of Garcia's household.
They were _all_ confederates in the same unknown crime. If it came off
when Garcia returned, any possible suspicion would be warded off by the
Englishman's evidence, and all would be well. But the attempt was a
dangerous one, and if Garcia did _not_ return by a certain hour it was
probable that his own life had been sacrificed. It had been arranged,
therefore, that in such a case his two subordinates were to make for
some prearranged spot where they could escape investigation and be in a
position afterwards to renew their attempt. That would fully explain
the facts, would it not?"

The whole inexplicable tangle seemed to straighten out before me. I
wondered, as I always did, how it had not been obvious to me before.

"But why should one servant return?"

"We can imagine that in the confusion of flight something precious,
something which he could not bear to part with, had been left behind.
That would explain his persistence, would it not?"

"Well, what is the next step?"

"The next step is the note received by Garcia at the dinner. It
indicates a confederate at the other end. Now, where was the other end?
I have already shown you that it could only lie in some large house,
and that the number of large houses is limited. My first days in this
village were devoted to a series of walks in which in the intervals of
my botanical researches I made a reconnaissance of all the large houses
and an examination of the family history of the occupants. One house,
and only one, riveted my attention. It is the famous old Jacobean
grange of High Gable, one mile on the farther side of Oxshott, and less
than half a mile from the scene of the tragedy. The other mansions
belonged to prosaic and respectable people who live far aloof from
romance. But Mr. Henderson, of High Gable, was by all accounts a
curious man to whom curious adventures might befall. I concentrated my
attention, therefore, upon him and his household.

"A singular set of people, Watson—the man himself the most singular of
them all. I managed to see him on a plausible pretext, but I seemed to
read in his dark, deepset, brooding eyes that he was perfectly aware of
my true business. He is a man of fifty, strong, active, with iron-gray
hair, great bunched black eyebrows, the step of a deer and the air of
an emperor—a fierce, masterful man, with a red-hot spirit behind his
parchment face. He is either a foreigner or has lived long in the
tropics, for he is yellow and sapless, but tough as whipcord. His
friend and secretary, Mr. Lucas, is undoubtedly a foreigner, chocolate
brown, wily, suave, and catlike, with a poisonous gentleness of speech.
You see, Watson, we have come already upon two sets of foreigners—one
at Wisteria Lodge and one at High Gable—so our gaps are beginning to
close.

"These two men, close and confidential friends, are the centre of the
household; but there is one other person who for our immediate purpose
may be even more important. Henderson has two children—girls of eleven
and thirteen. Their governess is a Miss Burnet, an Englishwoman of
forty or thereabouts. There is also one confidential manservant. This
little group forms the real family, for they travel about together, and
Henderson is a great traveller, always on the move. It is only within
the last weeks that he has returned, after a year's absence, to High
Gable. I may add that he is enormously rich, and whatever his whims may
be he can very easily satisfy them. For the rest, his house is full of
butlers, footmen, maidservants, and the usual overfed, underworked
staff of a large English country house.

"So much I learned partly from village gossip and partly from my own
observation. There are no better instruments than discharged servants
with a grievance, and I was lucky enough to find one. I call it luck,
but it would not have come my way had I not been looking out for it. As
Baynes remarks, we all have our systems. It was my system which enabled
me to find John Warner, late gardener of High Gable, sacked in a moment
of temper by his imperious employer. He in turn had friends among the
indoor servants who unite in their fear and dislike of their master. So
I had my key to the secrets of the establishment.

"Curious people, Watson! I don't pretend to understand it all yet, but
very curious people anyway. It's a double-winged house, and the
servants live on one side, the family on the other. There's no link
between the two save for Henderson's own servant, who serves the
family's meals. Everything is carried to a certain door, which forms
the one connection. Governess and children hardly go out at all, except
into the garden. Henderson never by any chance walks alone. His dark
secretary is like his shadow. The gossip among the servants is that
their master is terribly afraid of something. 'Sold his soul to the
devil in exchange for money,' says Warner, 'and expects his creditor to
come up and claim his own.' Where they came from, or who they are,
nobody has an idea. They are very violent. Twice Henderson has lashed
at folk with his dog-whip, and only his long purse and heavy
compensation have kept him out of the courts.

"Well, now, Watson, let us judge the situation by this new information.
We may take it that the letter came out of this strange household and
was an invitation to Garcia to carry out some attempt which had already
been planned. Who wrote the note? It was someone within the citadel,
and it was a woman. Who then but Miss Burnet, the governess? All our
reasoning seems to point that way. At any rate, we may take it as a
hypothesis and see what consequences it would entail. I may add that
Miss Burnet's age and character make it certain that my first idea that
there might be a love interest in our story is out of the question.

"If she wrote the note she was presumably the friend and confederate of
Garcia. What, then, might she be expected to do if she heard of his
death? If he met it in some nefarious enterprise her lips might be
sealed. Still, in her heart, she must retain bitterness and hatred
against those who had killed him and would presumably help so far as
she could to have revenge upon them. Could we see her, then and try to
use her? That was my first thought. But now we come to a sinister fact.
Miss Burnet has not been seen by any human eye since the night of the
murder. From that evening she has utterly vanished. Is she alive? Has
she perhaps met her end on the same night as the friend whom she had
summoned? Or is she merely a prisoner? There is the point which we
still have to decide.

"You will appreciate the difficulty of the situation, Watson. There is
nothing upon which we can apply for a warrant. Our whole scheme might
seem fantastic if laid before a magistrate. The woman's disappearance
counts for nothing, since in that extraordinary household any member of
it might be invisible for a week. And yet she may at the present moment
be in danger of her life. All I can do is to watch the house and leave
my agent, Warner, on guard at the gates. We can't let such a situation
continue. If the law can do nothing we must take the risk ourselves."

"What do you suggest?"

"I know which is her room. It is accessible from the top of an
outhouse. My suggestion is that you and I go to-night and see if we can
strike at the very heart of the mystery."

It was not, I must confess, a very alluring prospect. The old house
with its atmosphere of murder, the singular and formidable inhabitants,
the unknown dangers of the approach, and the fact that we were putting
ourselves legally in a false position all combined to damp my ardour.
But there was something in the ice-cold reasoning of Holmes which made
it impossible to shrink from any adventure which he might recommend.
One knew that thus, and only thus, could a solution be found. I clasped
his hand in silence, and the die was cast.

But it was not destined that our investigation should have so
adventurous an ending. It was about five o'clock, and the shadows of
the March evening were beginning to fall, when an excited rustic rushed
into our room.

"They've gone, Mr. Holmes. They went by the last train. The lady broke
away, and I've got her in a cab downstairs."

"Excellent, Warner!" cried Holmes, springing to his feet. "Watson, the
gaps are closing rapidly."

In the cab was a woman, half-collapsed from nervous exhaustion. She
bore upon her aquiline and emaciated face the traces of some recent
tragedy. Her head hung listlessly upon her breast, but as she raised it
and turned her dull eyes upon us I saw that her pupils were dark dots
in the centre of the broad gray iris. She was drugged with opium.

"I watched at the gate, same as you advised, Mr. Holmes," said our
emissary, the discharged gardener. "When the carriage came out I
followed it to the station. She was like one walking in her sleep, but
when they tried to get her into the train she came to life and
struggled. They pushed her into the carriage. She fought her way out
again. I took her part, got her into a cab, and here we are. I shan't
forget the face at the carriage window as I led her away. I'd have a
short life if he had his way—the black-eyed, scowling, yellow devil."

We carried her upstairs, laid her on the sofa, and a couple of cups of
the strongest coffee soon cleared her brain from the mists of the drug.
Baynes had been summoned by Holmes, and the situation rapidly explained
to him.

"Why, sir, you've got me the very evidence I want," said the inspector
warmly, shaking my friend by the hand. "I was on the same scent as you
from the first."

"What! You were after Henderson?"

"Why, Mr. Holmes, when you were crawling in the shrubbery at High Gable
I was up one of the trees in the plantation and saw you down below. It
was just who would get his evidence first."

"Then why did you arrest the mulatto?"

Baynes chuckled.

"I was sure Henderson, as he calls himself, felt that he was suspected,
and that he would lie low and make no move so long as he thought he was
in any danger. I arrested the wrong man to make him believe that our
eyes were off him. I knew he would be likely to clear off then and give
us a chance of getting at Miss Burnet."

Holmes laid his hand upon the inspector's shoulder.

"You will rise high in your profession. You have instinct and
intuition," said he.

Baynes flushed with pleasure.

"I've had a plain-clothes man waiting at the station all the week.
Wherever the High Gable folk go he will keep them in sight. But he must
have been hard put to it when Miss Burnet broke away. However, your man
picked her up, and it all ends well. We can't arrest without her
evidence, that is clear, so the sooner we get a statement the better."

"Every minute she gets stronger," said Holmes, glancing at the
governess. "But tell me, Baynes, who is this man Henderson?"

"Henderson," the inspector answered, "is Don Murillo, once called the
Tiger of San Pedro."

The Tiger of San Pedro! The whole history of the man came back to me in
a flash. He had made his name as the most lewd and bloodthirsty tyrant
that had ever governed any country with a pretence to civilization.
Strong, fearless, and energetic, he had sufficient virtue to enable him
to impose his odious vices upon a cowering people for ten or twelve
years. His name was a terror through all Central America. At the end of
that time there was a universal rising against him. But he was as
cunning as he was cruel, and at the first whisper of coming trouble he
had secretly conveyed his treasures aboard a ship which was manned by
devoted adherents. It was an empty palace which was stormed by the
insurgents next day. The dictator, his two children, his secretary, and
his wealth had all escaped them. From that moment he had vanished from
the world, and his identity had been a frequent subject for comment in
the European press.

"Yes, sir, Don Murillo, the Tiger of San Pedro," said Baynes. "If you
look it up you will find that the San Pedro colours are green and
white, same as in the note, Mr. Holmes. Henderson he called himself,
but I traced him back, Paris and Rome and Madrid to Barcelona, where
his ship came in in '86. They've been looking for him all the time for
their revenge, but it is only now that they have begun to find him
out."

"They discovered him a year ago," said Miss Burnet, who had sat up and
was now intently following the conversation. "Once already his life has
been attempted, but some evil spirit shielded him. Now, again, it is
the noble, chivalrous Garcia who has fallen, while the monster goes
safe. But another will come, and yet another, until some day justice
will be done; that is as certain as the rise of to-morrow's sun." Her
thin hands clenched, and her worn face blanched with the passion of her
hatred.

"But how come you into this matter, Miss Burnet?" asked Holmes. "How
can an English lady join in such a murderous affair?"

"I join in it because there is no other way in the world by which
justice can be gained. What does the law of England care for the rivers
of blood shed years ago in San Pedro, or for the shipload of treasure
which this man has stolen? To you they are like crimes committed in
some other planet. But _we_ know. We have learned the truth in sorrow
and in suffering. To us there is no fiend in hell like Juan Murillo,
and no peace in life while his victims still cry for vengeance."

"No doubt," said Holmes, "he was as you say. I have heard that he was
atrocious. But how are you affected?"

"I will tell you it all. This villain's policy was to murder, on one
pretext or another, every man who showed such promise that he might in
time come to be a dangerous rival. My husband—yes, my real name is
Signora Victor Durando—was the San Pedro minister in London. He met me
and married me there. A nobler man never lived upon earth. Unhappily,
Murillo heard of his excellence, recalled him on some pretext, and had
him shot. With a premonition of his fate he had refused to take me with
him. His estates were confiscated, and I was left with a pittance and a
broken heart.

"Then came the downfall of the tyrant. He escaped as you have just
described. But the many whose lives he had ruined, whose nearest and
dearest had suffered torture and death at his hands, would not let the
matter rest. They banded themselves into a society which should never
be dissolved until the work was done. It was my part after we had
discovered in the transformed Henderson the fallen despot, to attach
myself to his household and keep the others in touch with his
movements. This I was able to do by securing the position of governess
in his family. He little knew that the woman who faced him at every
meal was the woman whose husband he had hurried at an hour's notice
into eternity. I smiled on him, did my duty to his children, and bided
my time. An attempt was made in Paris and failed. We zig-zagged swiftly
here and there over Europe to throw off the pursuers and finally
returned to this house, which he had taken upon his first arrival in
England.

"But here also the ministers of justice were waiting. Knowing that he
would return there, Garcia, who is the son of the former highest
dignitary in San Pedro, was waiting with two trusty companions of
humble station, all three fired with the same reasons for revenge. He
could do little during the day, for Murillo took every precaution and
never went out save with his satellite Lucas, or Lopez as he was known
in the days of his greatness. At night, however, he slept alone, and
the avenger might find him. On a certain evening, which had been
prearranged, I sent my friend final instructions, for the man was
forever on the alert and continually changed his room. I was to see
that the doors were open and the signal of a green or white light in a
window which faced the drive was to give notice if all was safe or if
the attempt had better be postponed.

"But everything went wrong with us. In some way I had excited the
suspicion of Lopez, the secretary. He crept up behind me and sprang
upon me just as I had finished the note. He and his master dragged me
to my room and held judgment upon me as a convicted traitress. Then and
there they would have plunged their knives into me could they have seen
how to escape the consequences of the deed. Finally, after much debate,
they concluded that my murder was too dangerous. But they determined to
get rid forever of Garcia. They had gagged me, and Murillo twisted my
arm round until I gave him the address. I swear that he might have
twisted it off had I understood what it would mean to Garcia. Lopez
addressed the note which I had written, sealed it with his sleeve-link,
and sent it by the hand of the servant, Jose. How they murdered him I
do not know, save that it was Murillo's hand who struck him down, for
Lopez had remained to guard me. I believe he must have waited among the
gorse bushes through which the path winds and struck him down as he
passed. At first they were of a mind to let him enter the house and to
kill him as a detected burglar; but they argued that if they were mixed
up in an inquiry their own identity would at once be publicly disclosed
and they would be open to further attacks. With the death of Garcia,
the pursuit might cease, since such a death might frighten others from
the task.

"All would now have been well for them had it not been for my knowledge
of what they had done. I have no doubt that there were times when my
life hung in the balance. I was confined to my room, terrorized by the
most horrible threats, cruelly ill-used to break my spirit—see this
stab on my shoulder and the bruises from end to end of my arms—and a
gag was thrust into my mouth on the one occasion when I tried to call
from the window. For five days this cruel imprisonment continued, with
hardly enough food to hold body and soul together. This afternoon a
good lunch was brought me, but the moment after I took it I knew that I
had been drugged. In a sort of dream I remember being half-led,
half-carried to the carriage; in the same state I was conveyed to the
train. Only then, when the wheels were almost moving, did I suddenly
realize that my liberty lay in my own hands. I sprang out, they tried
to drag me back, and had it not been for the help of this good man, who
led me to the cab, I should never had broken away. Now, thank God, I am
beyond their power forever."

We had all listened intently to this remarkable statement. It was
Holmes who broke the silence.

"Our difficulties are not over," he remarked, shaking his head. "Our
police work ends, but our legal work begins."

"Exactly," said I. "A plausible lawyer could make it out as an act of
self-defence. There may be a hundred crimes in the background, but it
is only on this one that they can be tried."

"Come, come," said Baynes cheerily, "I think better of the law than
that. Self-defence is one thing. To entice a man in cold blood with the
object of murdering him is another, whatever danger you may fear from
him. No, no, we shall all be justified when we see the tenants of High
Gable at the next Guildford Assizes."


It is a matter of history, however, that a little time was still to
elapse before the Tiger of San Pedro should meet with his deserts. Wily
and bold, he and his companion threw their pursuer off their track by
entering a lodging-house in Edmonton Street and leaving by the
back-gate into Curzon Square. From that day they were seen no more in
England. Some six months afterwards the Marquess of Montalva and Signor
Rulli, his secretary, were both murdered in their rooms at the Hotel
Escurial at Madrid. The crime was ascribed to Nihilism, and the
murderers were never arrested. Inspector Baynes visited us at Baker
Street with a printed description of the dark face of the secretary,
and of the masterful features, the magnetic black eyes, and the tufted
brows of his master. We could not doubt that justice, if belated, had
come at last.

"A chaotic case, my dear Watson," said Holmes over an evening pipe. "It
will not be possible for you to present in that compact form which is
dear to your heart. It covers two continents, concerns two groups of
mysterious persons, and is further complicated by the highly
respectable presence of our friend, Scott Eccles, whose inclusion shows
me that the deceased Garcia had a scheming mind and a well-developed
instinct of self-preservation. It is remarkable only for the fact that
amid a perfect jungle of possibilities we, with our worthy
collaborator, the inspector, have kept our close hold on the essentials
and so been guided along the crooked and winding path. Is there any
point which is not quite clear to you?"

"The object of the mulatto cook's return?"

"I think that the strange creature in the kitchen may account for it.
The man was a primitive savage from the backwoods of San Pedro, and
this was his fetish. When his companion and he had fled to some
prearranged retreat—already occupied, no doubt by a confederate—the
companion had persuaded him to leave so compromising an article of
furniture. But the mulatto's heart was with it, and he was driven back
to it next day, when, on reconnoitering through the window, he found
policeman Walters in possession. He waited three days longer, and then
his piety or his superstition drove him to try once more. Inspector
Baynes, who, with his usual astuteness, had minimized the incident
before me, had really recognized its importance and had left a trap
into which the creature walked. Any other point, Watson?"

"The torn bird, the pail of blood, the charred bones, all the mystery
of that weird kitchen?"

Holmes smiled as he turned up an entry in his note-book.

"I spent a morning in the British Museum reading up on that and other
points. Here is a quotation from Eckermann's Voodooism and the Negroid
Religions:

"'The true voodoo-worshipper attempts nothing of importance without
certain sacrifices which are intended to propitiate his unclean gods.
In extreme cases these rites take the form of human sacrifices followed
by cannibalism. The more usual victims are a white cock, which is
plucked in pieces alive, or a black goat, whose throat is cut and body
burned.'

"So you see our savage friend was very orthodox in his ritual. It is
grotesque, Watson," Holmes added, as he slowly fastened his notebook,
"but, as I have had occasion to remark, there is but one step from the
grotesque to the horrible."



The Adventure of the Bruce-Partington Plans

In the third week of November, in the year 1895, a dense yellow fog
settled down upon London. From the Monday to the Thursday I doubt
whether it was ever possible from our windows in Baker Street to see
the loom of the opposite houses. The first day Holmes had spent in
cross-indexing his huge book of references. The second and third had
been patiently occupied upon a subject which he had recently made his
hobby—the music of the Middle Ages. But when, for the fourth time,
after pushing back our chairs from breakfast we saw the greasy, heavy
brown swirl still drifting past us and condensing in oily drops upon
the window-panes, my comrade's impatient and active nature could endure
this drab existence no longer. He paced restlessly about our
sitting-room in a fever of suppressed energy, biting his nails, tapping
the furniture, and chafing against inaction.

"Nothing of interest in the paper, Watson?" he said.

I was aware that by anything of interest, Holmes meant anything of
criminal interest. There was the news of a revolution, of a possible
war, and of an impending change of government; but these did not come
within the horizon of my companion. I could see nothing recorded in the
shape of crime which was not commonplace and futile. Holmes groaned and
resumed his restless meanderings.

"The London criminal is certainly a dull fellow," said he in the
querulous voice of the sportsman whose game has failed him. "Look out
this window, Watson. See how the figures loom up, are dimly seen, and
then blend once more into the cloud-bank. The thief or the murderer
could roam London on such a day as the tiger does the jungle, unseen
until he pounces, and then evident only to his victim."

"There have," said I, "been numerous petty thefts."

Holmes snorted his contempt.

"This great and sombre stage is set for something more worthy than
that," said he. "It is fortunate for this community that I am not a
criminal."

"It is, indeed!" said I heartily.

"Suppose that I were Brooks or Woodhouse, or any of the fifty men who
have good reason for taking my life, how long could I survive against
my own pursuit? A summons, a bogus appointment, and all would be over.
It is well they don't have days of fog in the Latin countries—the
countries of assassination. By Jove! here comes something at last to
break our dead monotony."

It was the maid with a telegram. Holmes tore it open and burst out
laughing.

"Well, well! What next?" said he. "Brother Mycroft is coming round."

"Why not?" I asked.

"Why not? It is as if you met a tram-car coming down a country lane.
Mycroft has his rails and he runs on them. His Pall Mall lodgings, the
Diogenes Club, Whitehall—that is his cycle. Once, and only once, he has
been here. What upheaval can possibly have derailed him?"

"Does he not explain?"

Holmes handed me his brother's telegram.

 "Must see you over Cadogan West. Coming at once." MYCROFT.



"Cadogan West? I have heard the name."

"It recalls nothing to my mind. But that Mycroft should break out in
this erratic fashion! A planet might as well leave its orbit. By the
way, do you know what Mycroft is?"

I had some vague recollection of an explanation at the time of the
Adventure of the Greek Interpreter.

"You told me that he had some small office under the British
government."

Holmes chuckled.

"I did not know you quite so well in those days. One has to be discreet
when one talks of high matters of state. You are right in thinking that
he is under the British government. You would also be right in a sense
if you said that occasionally he IS the British government."

"My dear Holmes!"

"I thought I might surprise you. Mycroft draws four hundred and fifty
pounds a year, remains a subordinate, has no ambitions of any kind,
will receive neither honour nor title, but remains the most
indispensable man in the country."

"But how?"

"Well, his position is unique. He has made it for himself. There has
never been anything like it before, nor will be again. He has the
tidiest and most orderly brain, with the greatest capacity for storing
facts, of any man living. The same great powers which I have turned to
the detection of crime he has used for this particular business. The
conclusions of every department are passed to him, and he is the
central exchange, the clearinghouse, which makes out the balance. All
other men are specialists, but his specialism is omniscience. We will
suppose that a minister needs information as to a point which involves
the Navy, India, Canada and the bimetallic question; he could get his
separate advices from various departments upon each, but only Mycroft
can focus them all, and say offhand how each factor would affect the
other. They began by using him as a short-cut, a convenience; now he
has made himself an essential. In that great brain of his everything is
pigeon-holed and can be handed out in an instant. Again and again his
word has decided the national policy. He lives in it. He thinks of
nothing else save when, as an intellectual exercise, he unbends if I
call upon him and ask him to advise me on one of my little problems.
But Jupiter is descending to-day. What on earth can it mean? Who is
Cadogan West, and what is he to Mycroft?"

"I have it," I cried, and plunged among the litter of papers upon the
sofa. "Yes, yes, here he is, sure enough! Cadogan West was the young
man who was found dead on the Underground on Tuesday morning."

Holmes sat up at attention, his pipe halfway to his lips.

"This must be serious, Watson. A death which has caused my brother to
alter his habits can be no ordinary one. What in the world can he have
to do with it? The case was featureless as I remember it. The young man
had apparently fallen out of the train and killed himself. He had not
been robbed, and there was no particular reason to suspect violence. Is
that not so?"

"There has been an inquest," said I, "and a good many fresh facts have
come out. Looked at more closely, I should certainly say that it was a
curious case."

"Judging by its effect upon my brother, I should think it must be a
most extraordinary one." He snuggled down in his armchair. "Now,
Watson, let us have the facts."

"The man's name was Arthur Cadogan West. He was twenty-seven years of
age, unmarried, and a clerk at Woolwich Arsenal."

"Government employ. Behold the link with Brother Mycroft!"

"He left Woolwich suddenly on Monday night. Was last seen by his
fiancee, Miss Violet Westbury, whom he left abruptly in the fog about
7:30 that evening. There was no quarrel between them and she can give
no motive for his action. The next thing heard of him was when his dead
body was discovered by a plate-layer named Mason, just outside Aldgate
Station on the Underground system in London."

"When?"

"The body was found at six on Tuesday morning. It was lying wide of the
metals upon the left hand of the track as one goes eastward, at a point
close to the station, where the line emerges from the tunnel in which
it runs. The head was badly crushed—an injury which might well have
been caused by a fall from the train. The body could only have come on
the line in that way. Had it been carried down from any neighbouring
street, it must have passed the station barriers, where a collector is
always standing. This point seems absolutely certain."

"Very good. The case is definite enough. The man, dead or alive, either
fell or was precipitated from a train. So much is clear to me.
Continue."

"The trains which traverse the lines of rail beside which the body was
found are those which run from west to east, some being purely
Metropolitan, and some from Willesden and outlying junctions. It can be
stated for certain that this young man, when he met his death, was
travelling in this direction at some late hour of the night, but at
what point he entered the train it is impossible to state."

"His ticket, of course, would show that."

"There was no ticket in his pockets."

"No ticket! Dear me, Watson, this is really very singular. According to
my experience it is not possible to reach the platform of a
Metropolitan train without exhibiting one's ticket. Presumably, then,
the young man had one. Was it taken from him in order to conceal the
station from which he came? It is possible. Or did he drop it in the
carriage? That is also possible. But the point is of curious interest.
I understand that there was no sign of robbery?"

"Apparently not. There is a list here of his possessions. His purse
contained two pounds fifteen. He had also a check-book on the Woolwich
branch of the Capital and Counties Bank. Through this his identity was
established. There were also two dress-circle tickets for the Woolwich
Theatre, dated for that very evening. Also a small packet of technical
papers."

Holmes gave an exclamation of satisfaction.

"There we have it at last, Watson! British government—Woolwich.
Arsenal—technical papers—Brother Mycroft, the chain is complete. But
here he comes, if I am not mistaken, to speak for himself."

A moment later the tall and portly form of Mycroft Holmes was ushered
into the room. Heavily built and massive, there was a suggestion of
uncouth physical inertia in the figure, but above this unwieldy frame
there was perched a head so masterful in its brow, so alert in its
steel-gray, deep-set eyes, so firm in its lips, and so subtle in its
play of expression, that after the first glance one forgot the gross
body and remembered only the dominant mind.

At his heels came our old friend Lestrade, of Scotland Yard—thin and
austere. The gravity of both their faces foretold some weighty quest.
The detective shook hands without a word. Mycroft Holmes struggled out
of his overcoat and subsided into an armchair.

"A most annoying business, Sherlock," said he. "I extremely dislike
altering my habits, but the powers that be would take no denial. In the
present state of Siam it is most awkward that I should be away from the
office. But it is a real crisis. I have never seen the Prime Minister
so upset. As to the Admiralty—it is buzzing like an overturned
bee-hive. Have you read up the case?"

"We have just done so. What were the technical papers?"

"Ah, there's the point! Fortunately, it has not come out. The press
would be furious if it did. The papers which this wretched youth had in
his pocket were the plans of the Bruce-Partington submarine."

Mycroft Holmes spoke with a solemnity which showed his sense of the
importance of the subject. His brother and I sat expectant.

"Surely you have heard of it? I thought everyone had heard of it."

"Only as a name."

"Its importance can hardly be exaggerated. It has been the most
jealously guarded of all government secrets. You may take it from me
that naval warfare becomes impossible within the radius of a
Bruce-Partington's operation. Two years ago a very large sum was
smuggled through the Estimates and was expended in acquiring a monopoly
of the invention. Every effort has been made to keep the secret. The
plans, which are exceedingly intricate, comprising some thirty separate
patents, each essential to the working of the whole, are kept in an
elaborate safe in a confidential office adjoining the arsenal, with
burglar-proof doors and windows. Under no conceivable circumstances
were the plans to be taken from the office. If the chief constructor of
the Navy desired to consult them, even he was forced to go to the
Woolwich office for the purpose. And yet here we find them in the
pocket of a dead junior clerk in the heart of London. From an official
point of view it's simply awful."

"But you have recovered them?"

"No, Sherlock, no! That's the pinch. We have not. Ten papers were taken
from Woolwich. There were seven in the pocket of Cadogan West. The
three most essential are gone—stolen, vanished. You must drop
everything, Sherlock. Never mind your usual petty puzzles of the
police-court. It's a vital international problem that you have to
solve. Why did Cadogan West take the papers, where are the missing
ones, how did he die, how came his body where it was found, how can the
evil be set right? Find an answer to all these questions, and you will
have done good service for your country."

"Why do you not solve it yourself, Mycroft? You can see as far as I."

"Possibly, Sherlock. But it is a question of getting details. Give me
your details, and from an armchair I will return you an excellent
expert opinion. But to run here and run there, to cross-question
railway guards, and lie on my face with a lens to my eye—it is not my
metier. No, you are the one man who can clear the matter up. If you
have a fancy to see your name in the next honours list—"

My friend smiled and shook his head.

"I play the game for the game's own sake," said he. "But the problem
certainly presents some points of interest, and I shall be very pleased
to look into it. Some more facts, please."

"I have jotted down the more essential ones upon this sheet of paper,
together with a few addresses which you will find of service. The
actual official guardian of the papers is the famous government expert,
Sir James Walter, whose decorations and sub-titles fill two lines of a
book of reference. He has grown gray in the service, is a gentleman, a
favoured guest in the most exalted houses, and, above all, a man whose
patriotism is beyond suspicion. He is one of two who have a key of the
safe. I may add that the papers were undoubtedly in the office during
working hours on Monday, and that Sir James left for London about three
o'clock taking his key with him. He was at the house of Admiral
Sinclair at Barclay Square during the whole of the evening when this
incident occurred."

"Has the fact been verified?"

"Yes; his brother, Colonel Valentine Walter, has testified to his
departure from Woolwich, and Admiral Sinclair to his arrival in London;
so Sir James is no longer a direct factor in the problem."

"Who was the other man with a key?"

"The senior clerk and draughtsman, Mr. Sidney Johnson. He is a man of
forty, married, with five children. He is a silent, morose man, but he
has, on the whole, an excellent record in the public service. He is
unpopular with his colleagues, but a hard worker. According to his own
account, corroborated only by the word of his wife, he was at home the
whole of Monday evening after office hours, and his key has never left
the watch-chain upon which it hangs."

"Tell us about Cadogan West."

"He has been ten years in the service and has done good work. He has
the reputation of being hot-headed and imperious, but a straight,
honest man. We have nothing against him. He was next Sidney Johnson in
the office. His duties brought him into daily, personal contact with
the plans. No one else had the handling of them."

"Who locked up the plans that night?"

"Mr. Sidney Johnson, the senior clerk."

"Well, it is surely perfectly clear who took them away. They are
actually found upon the person of this junior clerk, Cadogan West. That
seems final, does it not?"

"It does, Sherlock, and yet it leaves so much unexplained. In the first
place, why did he take them?"

"I presume they were of value?"

"He could have got several thousands for them very easily."

"Can you suggest any possible motive for taking the papers to London
except to sell them?"

"No, I cannot."

"Then we must take that as our working hypothesis. Young West took the
papers. Now this could only be done by having a false key—"

"Several false keys. He had to open the building and the room."

"He had, then, several false keys. He took the papers to London to sell
the secret, intending, no doubt, to have the plans themselves back in
the safe next morning before they were missed. While in London on this
treasonable mission he met his end."

"How?"

"We will suppose that he was travelling back to Woolwich when he was
killed and thrown out of the compartment."

"Aldgate, where the body was found, is considerably past the station
London Bridge, which would be his route to Woolwich."

"Many circumstances could be imagined under which he would pass London
Bridge. There was someone in the carriage, for example, with whom he
was having an absorbing interview. This interview led to a violent
scene in which he lost his life. Possibly he tried to leave the
carriage, fell out on the line, and so met his end. The other closed
the door. There was a thick fog, and nothing could be seen."

"No better explanation can be given with our present knowledge; and yet
consider, Sherlock, how much you leave untouched. We will suppose, for
argument's sake, that young Cadogan West HAD determined to convey these
papers to London. He would naturally have made an appointment with the
foreign agent and kept his evening clear. Instead of that he took two
tickets for the theatre, escorted his fiancee halfway there, and then
suddenly disappeared."

"A blind," said Lestrade, who had sat listening with some impatience to
the conversation.

"A very singular one. That is objection No. 1. Objection No. 2: We will
suppose that he reaches London and sees the foreign agent. He must
bring back the papers before morning or the loss will be discovered. He
took away ten. Only seven were in his pocket. What had become of the
other three? He certainly would not leave them of his own free will.
Then, again, where is the price of his treason? Once would have
expected to find a large sum of money in his pocket."

"It seems to me perfectly clear," said Lestrade. "I have no doubt at
all as to what occurred. He took the papers to sell them. He saw the
agent. They could not agree as to price. He started home again, but the
agent went with him. In the train the agent murdered him, took the more
essential papers, and threw his body from the carriage. That would
account for everything, would it not?"

"Why had he no ticket?"

"The ticket would have shown which station was nearest the agent's
house. Therefore he took it from the murdered man's pocket."

"Good, Lestrade, very good," said Holmes. "Your theory holds together.
But if this is true, then the case is at an end. On the one hand, the
traitor is dead. On the other, the plans of the Bruce-Partington
submarine are presumably already on the Continent. What is there for us
to do?"

"To act, Sherlock—to act!" cried Mycroft, springing to his feet. "All
my instincts are against this explanation. Use your powers! Go to the
scene of the crime! See the people concerned! Leave no stone unturned!
In all your career you have never had so great a chance of serving your
country."

"Well, well!" said Holmes, shrugging his shoulders. "Come, Watson! And
you, Lestrade, could you favour us with your company for an hour or
two? We will begin our investigation by a visit to Aldgate Station.
Good-bye, Mycroft. I shall let you have a report before evening, but I
warn you in advance that you have little to expect."

An hour later Holmes, Lestrade and I stood upon the Underground
railroad at the point where it emerges from the tunnel immediately
before Aldgate Station. A courteous red-faced old gentleman represented
the railway company.

"This is where the young man's body lay," said he, indicating a spot
about three feet from the metals. "It could not have fallen from above,
for these, as you see, are all blank walls. Therefore, it could only
have come from a train, and that train, so far as we can trace it, must
have passed about midnight on Monday."

"Have the carriages been examined for any sign of violence?"

"There are no such signs, and no ticket has been found."

"No record of a door being found open?"

"None."

"We have had some fresh evidence this morning," said Lestrade. "A
passenger who passed Aldgate in an ordinary Metropolitan train about
11:40 on Monday night declares that he heard a heavy thud, as of a body
striking the line, just before the train reached the station. There was
dense fog, however, and nothing could be seen. He made no report of it
at the time. Why, whatever is the matter with Mr. Holmes?"

My friend was standing with an expression of strained intensity upon
his face, staring at the railway metals where they curved out of the
tunnel. Aldgate is a junction, and there was a network of points. On
these his eager, questioning eyes were fixed, and I saw on his keen,
alert face that tightening of the lips, that quiver of the nostrils,
and concentration of the heavy, tufted brows which I knew so well.

"Points," he muttered; "the points."

"What of it? What do you mean?"

"I suppose there are no great number of points on a system such as
this?"

"No; they are very few."

"And a curve, too. Points, and a curve. By Jove! if it were only so."

"What is it, Mr. Holmes? Have you a clue?"

"An idea—an indication, no more. But the case certainly grows in
interest. Unique, perfectly unique, and yet why not? I do not see any
indications of bleeding on the line."

"There were hardly any."

"But I understand that there was a considerable wound."

"The bone was crushed, but there was no great external injury."

"And yet one would have expected some bleeding. Would it be possible
for me to inspect the train which contained the passenger who heard the
thud of a fall in the fog?"

"I fear not, Mr. Holmes. The train has been broken up before now, and
the carriages redistributed."

"I can assure you, Mr. Holmes," said Lestrade, "that every carriage has
been carefully examined. I saw to it myself."

It was one of my friend's most obvious weaknesses that he was impatient
with less alert intelligences than his own.

"Very likely," said he, turning away. "As it happens, it was not the
carriages which I desired to examine. Watson, we have done all we can
here. We need not trouble you any further, Mr. Lestrade. I think our
investigations must now carry us to Woolwich."

At London Bridge, Holmes wrote a telegram to his brother, which he
handed to me before dispatching it. It ran thus:

 See some light in the darkness, but it may possibly flicker out.
 Meanwhile, please send by messenger, to await return at Baker Street,
 a complete list of all foreign spies or international agents known to
 be in England, with full address.
 Sherlock.


"That should be helpful, Watson," he remarked as we took our seats in
the Woolwich train. "We certainly owe Brother Mycroft a debt for having
introduced us to what promises to be a really very remarkable case."

His eager face still wore that expression of intense and high-strung
energy, which showed me that some novel and suggestive circumstance had
opened up a stimulating line of thought. See the foxhound with hanging
ears and drooping tail as it lolls about the kennels, and compare it
with the same hound as, with gleaming eyes and straining muscles, it
runs upon a breast-high scent—such was the change in Holmes since the
morning. He was a different man from the limp and lounging figure in
the mouse-coloured dressing-gown who had prowled so restlessly only a
few hours before round the fog-girt room.

"There is material here. There is scope," said he. "I am dull indeed
not to have understood its possibilities."

"Even now they are dark to me."

"The end is dark to me also, but I have hold of one idea which may lead
us far. The man met his death elsewhere, and his body was on the ROOF
of a carriage."

"On the roof!"

"Remarkable, is it not? But consider the facts. Is it a coincidence
that it is found at the very point where the train pitches and sways as
it comes round on the points? Is not that the place where an object
upon the roof might be expected to fall off? The points would affect no
object inside the train. Either the body fell from the roof, or a very
curious coincidence has occurred. But now consider the question of the
blood. Of course, there was no bleeding on the line if the body had
bled elsewhere. Each fact is suggestive in itself. Together they have a
cumulative force."

"And the ticket, too!" I cried.

"Exactly. We could not explain the absence of a ticket. This would
explain it. Everything fits together."

"But suppose it were so, we are still as far as ever from unravelling
the mystery of his death. Indeed, it becomes not simpler but stranger."

"Perhaps," said Holmes, thoughtfully, "perhaps." He relapsed into a
silent reverie, which lasted until the slow train drew up at last in
Woolwich Station. There he called a cab and drew Mycroft's paper from
his pocket.

"We have quite a little round of afternoon calls to make," said he. "I
think that Sir James Walter claims our first attention."

The house of the famous official was a fine villa with green lawns
stretching down to the Thames. As we reached it the fog was lifting,
and a thin, watery sunshine was breaking through. A butler answered our
ring.

"Sir James, sir!" said he with solemn face. "Sir James died this
morning."

"Good heavens!" cried Holmes in amazement. "How did he die?"

"Perhaps you would care to step in, sir, and see his brother, Colonel
Valentine?"

"Yes, we had best do so."

We were ushered into a dim-lit drawing-room, where an instant later we
were joined by a very tall, handsome, light-beared man of fifty, the
younger brother of the dead scientist. His wild eyes, stained cheeks,
and unkempt hair all spoke of the sudden blow which had fallen upon the
household. He was hardly articulate as he spoke of it.

"It was this horrible scandal," said he. "My brother, Sir James, was a
man of very sensitive honour, and he could not survive such an affair.
It broke his heart. He was always so proud of the efficiency of his
department, and this was a crushing blow."

"We had hoped that he might have given us some indications which would
have helped us to clear the matter up."

"I assure you that it was all a mystery to him as it is to you and to
all of us. He had already put all his knowledge at the disposal of the
police. Naturally he had no doubt that Cadogan West was guilty. But all
the rest was inconceivable."

"You cannot throw any new light upon the affair?"

"I know nothing myself save what I have read or heard. I have no desire
to be discourteous, but you can understand, Mr. Holmes, that we are
much disturbed at present, and I must ask you to hasten this interview
to an end."

"This is indeed an unexpected development," said my friend when we had
regained the cab. "I wonder if the death was natural, or whether the
poor old fellow killed himself! If the latter, may it be taken as some
sign of self-reproach for duty neglected? We must leave that question
to the future. Now we shall turn to the Cadogan Wests."

A small but well-kept house in the outskirts of the town sheltered the
bereaved mother. The old lady was too dazed with grief to be of any use
to us, but at her side was a white-faced young lady, who introduced
herself as Miss Violet Westbury, the fiancee of the dead man, and the
last to see him upon that fatal night.

"I cannot explain it, Mr. Holmes," she said. "I have not shut an eye
since the tragedy, thinking, thinking, thinking, night and day, what
the true meaning of it can be. Arthur was the most single-minded,
chivalrous, patriotic man upon earth. He would have cut his right hand
off before he would sell a State secret confided to his keeping. It is
absurd, impossible, preposterous to anyone who knew him."

"But the facts, Miss Westbury?"

"Yes, yes; I admit I cannot explain them."

"Was he in any want of money?"

"No; his needs were very simple and his salary ample. He had saved a
few hundreds, and we were to marry at the New Year."

"No signs of any mental excitement? Come, Miss Westbury, be absolutely
frank with us."

The quick eye of my companion had noted some change in her manner. She
coloured and hesitated.

"Yes," she said at last, "I had a feeling that there was something on
his mind."

"For long?"

"Only for the last week or so. He was thoughtful and worried. Once I
pressed him about it. He admitted that there was something, and that it
was concerned with his official life. 'It is too serious for me to
speak about, even to you,' said he. I could get nothing more."

Holmes looked grave.

"Go on, Miss Westbury. Even if it seems to tell against him, go on. We
cannot say what it may lead to."

"Indeed, I have nothing more to tell. Once or twice it seemed to me
that he was on the point of telling me something. He spoke one evening
of the importance of the secret, and I have some recollection that he
said that no doubt foreign spies would pay a great deal to have it."

My friend's face grew graver still.

"Anything else?"

"He said that we were slack about such matters—that it would be easy
for a traitor to get the plans."

"Was it only recently that he made such remarks?"

"Yes, quite recently."

"Now tell us of that last evening."

"We were to go to the theatre. The fog was so thick that a cab was
useless. We walked, and our way took us close to the office. Suddenly
he darted away into the fog."

"Without a word?"

"He gave an exclamation; that was all. I waited but he never returned.
Then I walked home. Next morning, after the office opened, they came to
inquire. About twelve o'clock we heard the terrible news. Oh, Mr.
Holmes, if you could only, only save his honour! It was so much to
him."

Holmes shook his head sadly.

"Come, Watson," said he, "our ways lie elsewhere. Our next station must
be the office from which the papers were taken.

"It was black enough before against this young man, but our inquiries
make it blacker," he remarked as the cab lumbered off. "His coming
marriage gives a motive for the crime. He naturally wanted money. The
idea was in his head, since he spoke about it. He nearly made the girl
an accomplice in the treason by telling her his plans. It is all very
bad."

"But surely, Holmes, character goes for something? Then, again, why
should he leave the girl in the street and dart away to commit a
felony?"

"Exactly! There are certainly objections. But it is a formidable case
which they have to meet."

Mr. Sidney Johnson, the senior clerk, met us at the office and received
us with that respect which my companion's card always commanded. He was
a thin, gruff, bespectacled man of middle age, his cheeks haggard, and
his hands twitching from the nervous strain to which he had been
subjected.

"It is bad, Mr. Holmes, very bad! Have you heard of the death of the
chief?"

"We have just come from his house."

"The place is disorganized. The chief dead, Cadogan West dead, our
papers stolen. And yet, when we closed our door on Monday evening, we
were as efficient an office as any in the government service. Good God,
it's dreadful to think of! That West, of all men, should have done such
a thing!"

"You are sure of his guilt, then?"

"I can see no other way out of it. And yet I would have trusted him as
I trust myself."

"At what hour was the office closed on Monday?"

"At five."

"Did you close it?"

"I am always the last man out."

"Where were the plans?"

"In that safe. I put them there myself."

"Is there no watchman to the building?"

"There is, but he has other departments to look after as well. He is an
old soldier and a most trustworthy man. He saw nothing that evening. Of
course the fog was very thick."

"Suppose that Cadogan West wished to make his way into the building
after hours; he would need three keys, would he not, before he could
reach the papers?"

"Yes, he would. The key of the outer door, the key of the office, and
the key of the safe."

"Only Sir James Walter and you had those keys?"

"I had no keys of the doors—only of the safe."

"Was Sir James a man who was orderly in his habits?"

"Yes, I think he was. I know that so far as those three keys are
concerned he kept them on the same ring. I have often seen them there."

"And that ring went with him to London?"

"He said so."

"And your key never left your possession?"

"Never."

"Then West, if he is the culprit, must have had a duplicate. And yet
none was found upon his body. One other point: if a clerk in this
office desired to sell the plans, would it not be simpler to copy the
plans for himself than to take the originals, as was actually done?"

"It would take considerable technical knowledge to copy the plans in an
effective way."

"But I suppose either Sir James, or you, or West has that technical
knowledge?"

"No doubt we had, but I beg you won't try to drag me into the matter,
Mr. Holmes. What is the use of our speculating in this way when the
original plans were actually found on West?"

"Well, it is certainly singular that he should run the risk of taking
originals if he could safely have taken copies, which would have
equally served his turn."

"Singular, no doubt—and yet he did so."

"Every inquiry in this case reveals something inexplicable. Now there
are three papers still missing. They are, as I understand, the vital
ones."

"Yes, that is so."

"Do you mean to say that anyone holding these three papers, and without
the seven others, could construct a Bruce-Partington submarine?"

"I reported to that effect to the Admiralty. But to-day I have been
over the drawings again, and I am not so sure of it. The double valves
with the automatic self-adjusting slots are drawn in one of the papers
which have been returned. Until the foreigners had invented that for
themselves they could not make the boat. Of course they might soon get
over the difficulty."

"But the three missing drawings are the most important?"

"Undoubtedly."

"I think, with your permission, I will now take a stroll round the
premises. I do not recall any other question which I desired to ask."

He examined the lock of the safe, the door of the room, and finally the
iron shutters of the window. It was only when we were on the lawn
outside that his interest was strongly excited. There was a laurel bush
outside the window, and several of the branches bore signs of having
been twisted or snapped. He examined them carefully with his lens, and
then some dim and vague marks upon the earth beneath. Finally he asked
the chief clerk to close the iron shutters, and he pointed out to me
that they hardly met in the centre, and that it would be possible for
anyone outside to see what was going on within the room.

"The indications are ruined by three days' delay. They may mean
something or nothing. Well, Watson, I do not think that Woolwich can
help us further. It is a small crop which we have gathered. Let us see
if we can do better in London."

Yet we added one more sheaf to our harvest before we left Woolwich
Station. The clerk in the ticket office was able to say with confidence
that he saw Cadogan West—whom he knew well by sight—upon the Monday
night, and that he went to London by the 8:15 to London Bridge. He was
alone and took a single third-class ticket. The clerk was struck at the
time by his excited and nervous manner. So shaky was he that he could
hardly pick up his change, and the clerk had helped him with it. A
reference to the timetable showed that the 8:15 was the first train
which it was possible for West to take after he had left the lady about
7:30.

"Let us reconstruct, Watson," said Holmes after half an hour of
silence. "I am not aware that in all our joint researches we have ever
had a case which was more difficult to get at. Every fresh advance
which we make only reveals a fresh ridge beyond. And yet we have surely
made some appreciable progress.

"The effect of our inquiries at Woolwich has in the main been against
young Cadogan West; but the indications at the window would lend
themselves to a more favourable hypothesis. Let us suppose, for
example, that he had been approached by some foreign agent. It might
have been done under such pledges as would have prevented him from
speaking of it, and yet would have affected his thoughts in the
direction indicated by his remarks to his fiancee. Very good. We will
now suppose that as he went to the theatre with the young lady he
suddenly, in the fog, caught a glimpse of this same agent going in the
direction of the office. He was an impetuous man, quick in his
decisions. Everything gave way to his duty. He followed the man,
reached the window, saw the abstraction of the documents, and pursued
the thief. In this way we get over the objection that no one would take
originals when he could make copies. This outsider had to take
originals. So far it holds together."

"What is the next step?"

"Then we come into difficulties. One would imagine that under such
circumstances the first act of young Cadogan West would be to seize the
villain and raise the alarm. Why did he not do so? Could it have been
an official superior who took the papers? That would explain West's
conduct. Or could the chief have given West the slip in the fog, and
West started at once to London to head him off from his own rooms,
presuming that he knew where the rooms were? The call must have been
very pressing, since he left his girl standing in the fog and made no
effort to communicate with her. Our scent runs cold here, and there is
a vast gap between either hypothesis and the laying of West's body,
with seven papers in his pocket, on the roof of a Metropolitan train.
My instinct now is to work from the other end. If Mycroft has given us
the list of addresses we may be able to pick our man and follow two
tracks instead of one."

Surely enough, a note awaited us at Baker Street. A government
messenger had brought it post-haste. Holmes glanced at it and threw it
over to me.

 There are numerous small fry, but few who would handle so big an
 affair. The only men worth considering are Adolph Mayer, of 13 Great
 George Street, Westminster; Louis La Rothiere, of Campden Mansions,
 Notting Hill; and Hugo Oberstein, 13 Caulfield Gardens, Kensington.
 The latter was known to be in town on Monday and is now reported as
 having left. Glad to hear you have seen some light. The Cabinet awaits
 your final report with the utmost anxiety. Urgent representations have
 arrived from the very highest quarter. The whole force of the State is
 at your back if you should need it.

Mycroft.


"I'm afraid," said Holmes, smiling, "that all the queen's horses and
all the queen's men cannot avail in this matter." He had spread out his
big map of London and leaned eagerly over it. "Well, well," said he
presently with an exclamation of satisfaction, "things are turning a
little in our direction at last. Why, Watson, I do honestly believe
that we are going to pull it off, after all." He slapped me on the
shoulder with a sudden burst of hilarity. "I am going out now. It is
only a reconnaissance. I will do nothing serious without my trusted
comrade and biographer at my elbow. Do you stay here, and the odds are
that you will see me again in an hour or two. If time hangs heavy get
foolscap and a pen, and begin your narrative of how we saved the
State."

I felt some reflection of his elation in my own mind, for I knew well
that he would not depart so far from his usual austerity of demeanour
unless there was good cause for exultation. All the long November
evening I waited, filled with impatience for his return. At last,
shortly after nine o'clock, there arrived a messenger with a note:

 Am dining at Goldini's Restaurant, Gloucester Road, Kensington. Please
 come at once and join me there. Bring with you a jemmy, a dark
 lantern, a chisel, and a revolver.
 S.H.


It was a nice equipment for a respectable citizen to carry through the
dim, fog-draped streets. I stowed them all discreetly away in my
overcoat and drove straight to the address given. There sat my friend
at a little round table near the door of the garish Italian restaurant.

"Have you had something to eat? Then join me in a coffee and curacao.
Try one of the proprietor's cigars. They are less poisonous than one
would expect. Have you the tools?"

"They are here, in my overcoat."

"Excellent. Let me give you a short sketch of what I have done, with
some indication of what we are about to do. Now it must be evident to
you, Watson, that this young man's body was PLACED on the roof of the
train. That was clear from the instant that I determined the fact that
it was from the roof, and not from a carriage, that he had fallen."

"Could it not have been dropped from a bridge?"

"I should say it was impossible. If you examine the roofs you will find
that they are slightly rounded, and there is no railing round them.
Therefore, we can say for certain that young Cadogan West was placed on
it."

"How could he be placed there?"

"That was the question which we had to answer. There is only one
possible way. You are aware that the Underground runs clear of tunnels
at some points in the West End. I had a vague memory that as I have
travelled by it I have occasionally seen windows just above my head.
Now, suppose that a train halted under such a window, would there be
any difficulty in laying a body upon the roof?"

"It seems most improbable."

"We must fall back upon the old axiom that when all other contingencies
fail, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth. Here all
other contingencies HAVE failed. When I found that the leading
international agent, who had just left London, lived in a row of houses
which abutted upon the Underground, I was so pleased that you were a
little astonished at my sudden frivolity."

"Oh, that was it, was it?"

"Yes, that was it. Mr. Hugo Oberstein, of 13 Caulfield Gardens, had
become my objective. I began my operations at Gloucester Road Station,
where a very helpful official walked with me along the track and
allowed me to satisfy myself not only that the back-stair windows of
Caulfield Gardens open on the line but the even more essential fact
that, owing to the intersection of one of the larger railways, the
Underground trains are frequently held motionless for some minutes at
that very spot."

"Splendid, Holmes! You have got it!"

"So far—so far, Watson. We advance, but the goal is afar. Well, having
seen the back of Caulfield Gardens, I visited the front and satisfied
myself that the bird was indeed flown. It is a considerable house,
unfurnished, so far as I could judge, in the upper rooms. Oberstein
lived there with a single valet, who was probably a confederate
entirely in his confidence. We must bear in mind that Oberstein has
gone to the Continent to dispose of his booty, but not with any idea of
flight; for he had no reason to fear a warrant, and the idea of an
amateur domiciliary visit would certainly never occur to him. Yet that
is precisely what we are about to make."

"Could we not get a warrant and legalize it?"

"Hardly on the evidence."

"What can we hope to do?"

"We cannot tell what correspondence may be there."

"I don't like it, Holmes."

"My dear fellow, you shall keep watch in the street. I'll do the
criminal part. It's not a time to stick at trifles. Think of Mycroft's
note, of the Admiralty, the Cabinet, the exalted person who waits for
news. We are bound to go."

My answer was to rise from the table.

"You are right, Holmes. We are bound to go."

He sprang up and shook me by the hand.

"I knew you would not shrink at the last," said he, and for a moment I
saw something in his eyes which was nearer to tenderness than I had
ever seen. The next instant he was his masterful, practical self once
more.

"It is nearly half a mile, but there is no hurry. Let us walk," said
he. "Don't drop the instruments, I beg. Your arrest as a suspicious
character would be a most unfortunate complication."

Caulfield Gardens was one of those lines of flat-faced pillared, and
porticoed houses which are so prominent a product of the middle
Victorian epoch in the West End of London. Next door there appeared to
be a children's party, for the merry buzz of young voices and the
clatter of a piano resounded through the night. The fog still hung
about and screened us with its friendly shade. Holmes had lit his
lantern and flashed it upon the massive door.

"This is a serious proposition," said he. "It is certainly bolted as
well as locked. We would do better in the area. There is an excellent
archway down yonder in case a too zealous policeman should intrude.
Give me a hand, Watson, and I'll do the same for you."

A minute later we were both in the area. Hardly had we reached the dark
shadows before the step of the policeman was heard in the fog above. As
its soft rhythm died away, Holmes set to work upon the lower door. I
saw him stoop and strain until with a sharp crash it flew open. We
sprang through into the dark passage, closing the area door behind us.
Holmes led the way up the curving, uncarpeted stair. His little fan of
yellow light shone upon a low window.

"Here we are, Watson—this must be the one." He threw it open, and as he
did so there was a low, harsh murmur, growing steadily into a loud roar
as a train dashed past us in the darkness. Holmes swept his light along
the window-sill. It was thickly coated with soot from the passing
engines, but the black surface was blurred and rubbed in places.

"You can see where they rested the body. Halloa, Watson! what is this?
There can be no doubt that it is a blood mark." He was pointing to
faint discolourations along the woodwork of the window. "Here it is on
the stone of the stair also. The demonstration is complete. Let us stay
here until a train stops."

We had not long to wait. The very next train roared from the tunnel as
before, but slowed in the open, and then, with a creaking of brakes,
pulled up immediately beneath us. It was not four feet from the
window-ledge to the roof of the carriages. Holmes softly closed the
window.

"So far we are justified," said he. "What do you think of it, Watson?"

"A masterpiece. You have never risen to a greater height."

"I cannot agree with you there. From the moment that I conceived the
idea of the body being upon the roof, which surely was not a very
abstruse one, all the rest was inevitable. If it were not for the grave
interests involved the affair up to this point would be insignificant.
Our difficulties are still before us. But perhaps we may find something
here which may help us."

We had ascended the kitchen stair and entered the suite of rooms upon
the first floor. One was a dining-room, severely furnished and
containing nothing of interest. A second was a bedroom, which also drew
blank. The remaining room appeared more promising, and my companion
settled down to a systematic examination. It was littered with books
and papers, and was evidently used as a study. Swiftly and methodically
Holmes turned over the contents of drawer after drawer and cupboard
after cupboard, but no gleam of success came to brighten his austere
face. At the end of an hour he was no further than when he started.

"The cunning dog has covered his tracks," said he. "He has left nothing
to incriminate him. His dangerous correspondence has been destroyed or
removed. This is our last chance."

It was a small tin cash-box which stood upon the writing-desk. Holmes
pried it open with his chisel. Several rolls of paper were within,
covered with figures and calculations, without any note to show to what
they referred. The recurring words, "water pressure" and "pressure to
the square inch" suggested some possible relation to a submarine.
Holmes tossed them all impatiently aside. There only remained an
envelope with some small newspaper slips inside it. He shook them out
on the table, and at once I saw by his eager face that his hopes had
been raised.

"What's this, Watson? Eh? What's this? Record of a series of messages
in the advertisements of a paper. Daily Telegraph agony column by the
print and paper. Right-hand top corner of a page. No dates—but messages
arrange themselves. This must be the first:

 "Hoped to hear sooner. Terms agreed to. Write fully to address given
 on card.
 "Pierrot.


"Next comes:

 "Too complex for description. Must have full report, Stuff awaits you
 when goods delivered.
 "Pierrot.


"Then comes:

 "Matter presses. Must withdraw offer unless contract completed. Make
 appointment by letter. Will confirm by advertisement.

 "Pierrot.


"Finally:

 "Monday night after nine. Two taps. Only ourselves. Do not be so
 suspicious. Payment in hard cash when goods delivered.

"Pierrot.


"A fairly complete record, Watson! If we could only get at the man at
the other end!" He sat lost in thought, tapping his fingers on the
table. Finally he sprang to his feet.

"Well, perhaps it won't be so difficult, after all. There is nothing
more to be done here, Watson. I think we might drive round to the
offices of the Daily Telegraph, and so bring a good day's work to a
conclusion."



Mycroft Holmes and Lestrade had come round by appointment after
breakfast next day and Sherlock Holmes had recounted to them our
proceedings of the day before. The professional shook his head over our
confessed burglary.

"We can't do these things in the force, Mr. Holmes," said he. "No
wonder you get results that are beyond us. But some of these days
you'll go too far, and you'll find yourself and your friend in
trouble."

"For England, home and beauty—eh, Watson? Martyrs on the altar of our
country. But what do you think of it, Mycroft?"

"Excellent, Sherlock! Admirable! But what use will you make of it?"

Holmes picked up the Daily Telegraph which lay upon the table.

"Have you seen Pierrot's advertisement to-day?"

"What? Another one?"

"Yes, here it is:

 "To-night. Same hour. Same place. Two taps. Most vitally important.
 Your own safety at stake.
 "Pierrot.


"By George!" cried Lestrade. "If he answers that we've got him!"

"That was my idea when I put it in. I think if you could both make it
convenient to come with us about eight o'clock to Caulfield Gardens we
might possibly get a little nearer to a solution."

One of the most remarkable characteristics of Sherlock Holmes was his
power of throwing his brain out of action and switching all his
thoughts on to lighter things whenever he had convinced himself that he
could no longer work to advantage. I remember that during the whole of
that memorable day he lost himself in a monograph which he had
undertaken upon the Polyphonic Motets of Lassus. For my own part I had
none of this power of detachment, and the day, in consequence, appeared
to be interminable. The great national importance of the issue, the
suspense in high quarters, the direct nature of the experiment which we
were trying—all combined to work upon my nerve. It was a relief to me
when at last, after a light dinner, we set out upon our expedition.
Lestrade and Mycroft met us by appointment at the outside of Gloucester
Road Station. The area door of Oberstein's house had been left open the
night before, and it was necessary for me, as Mycroft Holmes absolutely
and indignantly declined to climb the railings, to pass in and open the
hall door. By nine o'clock we were all seated in the study, waiting
patiently for our man.

An hour passed and yet another. When eleven struck, the measured beat
of the great church clock seemed to sound the dirge of our hopes.
Lestrade and Mycroft were fidgeting in their seats and looking twice a
minute at their watches. Holmes sat silent and composed, his eyelids
half shut, but every sense on the alert. He raised his head with a
sudden jerk.

"He is coming," said he.

There had been a furtive step past the door. Now it returned. We heard
a shuffling sound outside, and then two sharp taps with the knocker.
Holmes rose, motioning us to remain seated. The gas in the hall was a
mere point of light. He opened the outer door, and then as a dark
figure slipped past him he closed and fastened it. "This way!" we heard
him say, and a moment later our man stood before us. Holmes had
followed him closely, and as the man turned with a cry of surprise and
alarm he caught him by the collar and threw him back into the room.
Before our prisoner had recovered his balance the door was shut and
Holmes standing with his back against it. The man glared round him,
staggered, and fell senseless upon the floor. With the shock, his
broad-brimmed hat flew from his head, his cravat slipped down from his
lips, and there were the long light beard and the soft, handsome
delicate features of Colonel Valentine Walter.

Holmes gave a whistle of surprise.

"You can write me down an ass this time, Watson," said he. "This was
not the bird that I was looking for."

"Who is he?" asked Mycroft eagerly.

"The younger brother of the late Sir James Walter, the head of the
Submarine Department. Yes, yes; I see the fall of the cards. He is
coming to. I think that you had best leave his examination to me."

We had carried the prostrate body to the sofa. Now our prisoner sat up,
looked round him with a horror-stricken face, and passed his hand over
his forehead, like one who cannot believe his own senses.

"What is this?" he asked. "I came here to visit Mr. Oberstein."

"Everything is known, Colonel Walter," said Holmes. "How an English
gentleman could behave in such a manner is beyond my comprehension. But
your whole correspondence and relations with Oberstein are within our
knowledge. So also are the circumstances connected with the death of
young Cadogan West. Let me advise you to gain at least the small credit
for repentance and confession, since there are still some details which
we can only learn from your lips."

The man groaned and sank his face in his hands. We waited, but he was
silent.

"I can assure you," said Holmes, "that every essential is already
known. We know that you were pressed for money; that you took an
impress of the keys which your brother held; and that you entered into
a correspondence with Oberstein, who answered your letters through the
advertisement columns of the Daily Telegraph. We are aware that you
went down to the office in the fog on Monday night, but that you were
seen and followed by young Cadogan West, who had probably some previous
reason to suspect you. He saw your theft, but could not give the alarm,
as it was just possible that you were taking the papers to your brother
in London. Leaving all his private concerns, like the good citizen that
he was, he followed you closely in the fog and kept at your heels until
you reached this very house. There he intervened, and then it was,
Colonel Walter, that to treason you added the more terrible crime of
murder."

"I did not! I did not! Before God I swear that I did not!" cried our
wretched prisoner.

"Tell us, then, how Cadogan West met his end before you laid him upon
the roof of a railway carriage."

"I will. I swear to you that I will. I did the rest. I confess it. It
was just as you say. A Stock Exchange debt had to be paid. I needed the
money badly. Oberstein offered me five thousand. It was to save myself
from ruin. But as to murder, I am as innocent as you."

"What happened, then?"

"He had his suspicions before, and he followed me as you describe. I
never knew it until I was at the very door. It was thick fog, and one
could not see three yards. I had given two taps and Oberstein had come
to the door. The young man rushed up and demanded to know what we were
about to do with the papers. Oberstein had a short life-preserver. He
always carried it with him. As West forced his way after us into the
house Oberstein struck him on the head. The blow was a fatal one. He
was dead within five minutes. There he lay in the hall, and we were at
our wit's end what to do. Then Oberstein had this idea about the trains
which halted under his back window. But first he examined the papers
which I had brought. He said that three of them were essential, and
that he must keep them. 'You cannot keep them,' said I. 'There will be
a dreadful row at Woolwich if they are not returned.' 'I must keep
them,' said he, 'for they are so technical that it is impossible in the
time to make copies.' 'Then they must all go back together to-night,'
said I. He thought for a little, and then he cried out that he had it.
'Three I will keep,' said he. 'The others we will stuff into the pocket
of this young man. When he is found the whole business will assuredly
be put to his account.' I could see no other way out of it, so we did
as he suggested. We waited half an hour at the window before a train
stopped. It was so thick that nothing could be seen, and we had no
difficulty in lowering West's body on to the train. That was the end of
the matter so far as I was concerned."

"And your brother?"

"He said nothing, but he had caught me once with his keys, and I think
that he suspected. I read in his eyes that he suspected. As you know,
he never held up his head again."

There was silence in the room. It was broken by Mycroft Holmes.

"Can you not make reparation? It would ease your conscience, and
possibly your punishment."

"What reparation can I make?"

"Where is Oberstein with the papers?"

"I do not know."

"Did he give you no address?"

"He said that letters to the Hotel du Louvre, Paris, would eventually
reach him."

"Then reparation is still within your power," said Sherlock Holmes.

"I will do anything I can. I owe this fellow no particular good-will.
He has been my ruin and my downfall."

"Here are paper and pen. Sit at this desk and write to my dictation.
Direct the envelope to the address given. That is right. Now the
letter:

 "Dear Sir:
 "With regard to our transaction, you will no doubt have observed by
 now that one essential detail is missing. I have a tracing which will
 make it complete. This has involved me in extra trouble, however, and
 I must ask you for a further advance of five hundred pounds. I will
 not trust it to the post, nor will I take anything but gold or notes.
 I would come to you abroad, but it would excite remark if I left the
 country at present. Therefore I shall expect to meet you in the
 smoking-room of the Charing Cross Hotel at noon on Saturday. Remember
 that only English notes, or gold, will be taken.


"That will do very well. I shall be very much surprised if it does not
fetch our man."

And it did! It is a matter of history—that secret history of a nation
which is often so much more intimate and interesting than its public
chronicles—that Oberstein, eager to complete the coup of his lifetime,
came to the lure and was safely engulfed for fifteen years in a British
prison. In his trunk were found the invaluable Bruce-Partington plans,
which he had put up for auction in all the naval centres of Europe.

Colonel Walter died in prison towards the end of the second year of his
sentence. As to Holmes, he returned refreshed to his monograph upon the
Polyphonic Motets of Lassus, which has since been printed for private
circulation, and is said by experts to be the last word upon the
subject. Some weeks afterwards I learned incidentally that my friend
spent a day at Windsor, whence he returned with a remarkably fine
emerald tie-pin. When I asked him if he had bought it, he answered that
it was a present from a certain gracious lady in whose interests he had
once been fortunate enough to carry out a small commission. He said no
more; but I fancy that I could guess at that lady's august name, and I
have little doubt that the emerald pin will forever recall to my
friend's memory the adventure of the Bruce-Partington plans.



The Adventure of the Devil's Foot

In recording from time to time some of the curious experiences and
interesting recollections which I associate with my long and intimate
friendship with Mr. Sherlock Holmes, I have continually been faced by
difficulties caused by his own aversion to publicity. To his sombre and
cynical spirit all popular applause was always abhorrent, and nothing
amused him more at the end of a successful case than to hand over the
actual exposure to some orthodox official, and to listen with a mocking
smile to the general chorus of misplaced congratulation. It was indeed
this attitude upon the part of my friend and certainly not any lack of
interesting material which has caused me of late years to lay very few
of my records before the public. My participation in some of his
adventures was always a privilege which entailed discretion and
reticence upon me.

It was, then, with considerable surprise that I received a telegram
from Holmes last Tuesday—he has never been known to write where a
telegram would serve—in the following terms:

 Why not tell them of the Cornish horror—strangest case I have handled.


I have no idea what backward sweep of memory had brought the matter
fresh to his mind, or what freak had caused him to desire that I should
recount it; but I hasten, before another cancelling telegram may
arrive, to hunt out the notes which give me the exact details of the
case and to lay the narrative before my readers.

It was, then, in the spring of the year 1897 that Holmes's iron
constitution showed some symptoms of giving way in the face of constant
hard work of a most exacting kind, aggravated, perhaps, by occasional
indiscretions of his own. In March of that year Dr. Moore Agar, of
Harley Street, whose dramatic introduction to Holmes I may some day
recount, gave positive injunctions that the famous private agent lay
aside all his cases and surrender himself to complete rest if he wished
to avert an absolute breakdown. The state of his health was not a
matter in which he himself took the faintest interest, for his mental
detachment was absolute, but he was induced at last, on the threat of
being permanently disqualified from work, to give himself a complete
change of scene and air. Thus it was that in the early spring of that
year we found ourselves together in a small cottage near Poldhu Bay, at
the further extremity of the Cornish peninsula.

It was a singular spot, and one peculiarly well suited to the grim
humour of my patient. From the windows of our little whitewashed house,
which stood high upon a grassy headland, we looked down upon the whole
sinister semicircle of Mounts Bay, that old death trap of sailing
vessels, with its fringe of black cliffs and surge-swept reefs on which
innumerable seamen have met their end. With a northerly breeze it lies
placid and sheltered, inviting the storm-tossed craft to tack into it
for rest and protection.

Then come the sudden swirl round of the wind, the blistering gale from
the south-west, the dragging anchor, the lee shore, and the last battle
in the creaming breakers. The wise mariner stands far out from that
evil place.

On the land side our surroundings were as sombre as on the sea. It was
a country of rolling moors, lonely and dun-colored, with an occasional
church tower to mark the site of some old-world village. In every
direction upon these moors there were traces of some vanished race
which had passed utterly away, and left as its sole record strange
monuments of stone, irregular mounds which contained the burned ashes
of the dead, and curious earthworks which hinted at prehistoric strife.
The glamour and mystery of the place, with its sinister atmosphere of
forgotten nations, appealed to the imagination of my friend, and he
spent much of his time in long walks and solitary meditations upon the
moor. The ancient Cornish language had also arrested his attention, and
he had, I remember, conceived the idea that it was akin to the
Chaldean, and had been largely derived from the Phoenician traders in
tin. He had received a consignment of books upon philology and was
settling down to develop this thesis when suddenly, to my sorrow and to
his unfeigned delight, we found ourselves, even in that land of dreams,
plunged into a problem at our very doors which was more intense, more
engrossing, and infinitely more mysterious than any of those which had
driven us from London. Our simple life and peaceful, healthy routine
were violently interrupted, and we were precipitated into the midst of
a series of events which caused the utmost excitement not only in
Cornwall but throughout the whole west of England. Many of my readers
may retain some recollection of what was called at the time "The
Cornish Horror," though a most imperfect account of the matter reached
the London press. Now, after thirteen years, I will give the true
details of this inconceivable affair to the public.

I have said that scattered towers marked the villages which dotted this
part of Cornwall. The nearest of these was the hamlet of Tredannick
Wollas, where the cottages of a couple of hundred inhabitants clustered
round an ancient, moss-grown church. The vicar of the parish, Mr.
Roundhay, was something of an archaeologist, and as such Holmes had
made his acquaintance. He was a middle-aged man, portly and affable,
with a considerable fund of local lore. At his invitation we had taken
tea at the vicarage and had come to know, also, Mr. Mortimer Tregennis,
an independent gentleman, who increased the clergyman's scanty
resources by taking rooms in his large, straggling house. The vicar,
being a bachelor, was glad to come to such an arrangement, though he
had little in common with his lodger, who was a thin, dark, spectacled
man, with a stoop which gave the impression of actual, physical
deformity. I remember that during our short visit we found the vicar
garrulous, but his lodger strangely reticent, a sad-faced,
introspective man, sitting with averted eyes, brooding apparently upon
his own affairs.

These were the two men who entered abruptly into our little
sitting-room on Tuesday, March the 16th, shortly after our breakfast
hour, as we were smoking together, preparatory to our daily excursion
upon the moors.

"Mr. Holmes," said the vicar in an agitated voice, "the most
extraordinary and tragic affair has occurred during the night. It is
the most unheard-of business. We can only regard it as a special
Providence that you should chance to be here at the time, for in all
England you are the one man we need."

I glared at the intrusive vicar with no very friendly eyes; but Holmes
took his pipe from his lips and sat up in his chair like an old hound
who hears the view-halloa. He waved his hand to the sofa, and our
palpitating visitor with his agitated companion sat side by side upon
it. Mr. Mortimer Tregennis was more self-contained than the clergyman,
but the twitching of his thin hands and the brightness of his dark eyes
showed that they shared a common emotion.

"Shall I speak or you?" he asked of the vicar.

"Well, as you seem to have made the discovery, whatever it may be, and
the vicar to have had it second-hand, perhaps you had better do the
speaking," said Holmes.

I glanced at the hastily clad clergyman, with the formally dressed
lodger seated beside him, and was amused at the surprise which Holmes's
simple deduction had brought to their faces.

"Perhaps I had best say a few words first," said the vicar, "and then
you can judge if you will listen to the details from Mr. Tregennis, or
whether we should not hasten at once to the scene of this mysterious
affair. I may explain, then, that our friend here spent last evening in
the company of his two brothers, Owen and George, and of his sister
Brenda, at their house of Tredannick Wartha, which is near the old
stone cross upon the moor. He left them shortly after ten o'clock,
playing cards round the dining-room table, in excellent health and
spirits. This morning, being an early riser, he walked in that
direction before breakfast and was overtaken by the carriage of Dr.
Richards, who explained that he had just been sent for on a most urgent
call to Tredannick Wartha. Mr. Mortimer Tregennis naturally went with
him. When he arrived at Tredannick Wartha he found an extraordinary
state of things. His two brothers and his sister were seated round the
table exactly as he had left them, the cards still spread in front of
them and the candles burned down to their sockets. The sister lay back
stone-dead in her chair, while the two brothers sat on each side of her
laughing, shouting, and singing, the senses stricken clean out of them.
All three of them, the dead woman and the two demented men, retained
upon their faces an expression of the utmost horror—a convulsion of
terror which was dreadful to look upon. There was no sign of the
presence of anyone in the house, except Mrs. Porter, the old cook and
housekeeper, who declared that she had slept deeply and heard no sound
during the night. Nothing had been stolen or disarranged, and there is
absolutely no explanation of what the horror can be which has
frightened a woman to death and two strong men out of their senses.
There is the situation, Mr. Holmes, in a nutshell, and if you can help
us to clear it up you will have done a great work."

I had hoped that in some way I could coax my companion back into the
quiet which had been the object of our journey; but one glance at his
intense face and contracted eyebrows told me how vain was now the
expectation. He sat for some little time in silence, absorbed in the
strange drama which had broken in upon our peace.

"I will look into this matter," he said at last. "On the face of it, it
would appear to be a case of a very exceptional nature. Have you been
there yourself, Mr. Roundhay?"

"No, Mr. Holmes. Mr. Tregennis brought back the account to the
vicarage, and I at once hurried over with him to consult you."

"How far is it to the house where this singular tragedy occurred?"

"About a mile inland."

"Then we shall walk over together. But before we start I must ask you a
few questions, Mr. Mortimer Tregennis."

The other had been silent all this time, but I had observed that his
more controlled excitement was even greater than the obtrusive emotion
of the clergyman. He sat with a pale, drawn face, his anxious gaze
fixed upon Holmes, and his thin hands clasped convulsively together.
His pale lips quivered as he listened to the dreadful experience which
had befallen his family, and his dark eyes seemed to reflect something
of the horror of the scene.

"Ask what you like, Mr. Holmes," said he eagerly. "It is a bad thing to
speak of, but I will answer you the truth."

"Tell me about last night."

"Well, Mr. Holmes, I supped there, as the vicar has said, and my elder
brother George proposed a game of whist afterwards. We sat down about
nine o'clock. It was a quarter-past ten when I moved to go. I left them
all round the table, as merry as could be."

"Who let you out?"

"Mrs. Porter had gone to bed, so I let myself out. I shut the hall door
behind me. The window of the room in which they sat was closed, but the
blind was not drawn down. There was no change in door or window this
morning, or any reason to think that any stranger had been to the
house. Yet there they sat, driven clean mad with terror, and Brenda
lying dead of fright, with her head hanging over the arm of the chair.
I'll never get the sight of that room out of my mind so long as I
live."

"The facts, as you state them, are certainly most remarkable," said
Holmes. "I take it that you have no theory yourself which can in any
way account for them?"

"It's devilish, Mr. Holmes, devilish!" cried Mortimer Tregennis. "It is
not of this world. Something has come into that room which has dashed
the light of reason from their minds. What human contrivance could do
that?"

"I fear," said Holmes, "that if the matter is beyond humanity it is
certainly beyond me. Yet we must exhaust all natural explanations
before we fall back upon such a theory as this. As to yourself, Mr.
Tregennis, I take it you were divided in some way from your family,
since they lived together and you had rooms apart?"

"That is so, Mr. Holmes, though the matter is past and done with. We
were a family of tin-miners at Redruth, but we sold our venture to a
company, and so retired with enough to keep us. I won't deny that there
was some feeling about the division of the money and it stood between
us for a time, but it was all forgiven and forgotten, and we were the
best of friends together."

"Looking back at the evening which you spent together, does anything
stand out in your memory as throwing any possible light upon the
tragedy? Think carefully, Mr. Tregennis, for any clue which can help
me."

"There is nothing at all, sir."

"Your people were in their usual spirits?"

"Never better."

"Were they nervous people? Did they ever show any apprehension of
coming danger?"

"Nothing of the kind."

"You have nothing to add then, which could assist me?"

Mortimer Tregennis considered earnestly for a moment.

"There is one thing occurs to me," said he at last. "As we sat at the
table my back was to the window, and my brother George, he being my
partner at cards, was facing it. I saw him once look hard over my
shoulder, so I turned round and looked also. The blind was up and the
window shut, but I could just make out the bushes on the lawn, and it
seemed to me for a moment that I saw something moving among them. I
couldn't even say if it was man or animal, but I just thought there was
something there. When I asked him what he was looking at, he told me
that he had the same feeling. That is all that I can say."

"Did you not investigate?"

"No; the matter passed as unimportant."

"You left them, then, without any premonition of evil?"

"None at all."

"I am not clear how you came to hear the news so early this morning."

"I am an early riser and generally take a walk before breakfast. This
morning I had hardly started when the doctor in his carriage overtook
me. He told me that old Mrs. Porter had sent a boy down with an urgent
message. I sprang in beside him and we drove on. When we got there we
looked into that dreadful room. The candles and the fire must have
burned out hours before, and they had been sitting there in the dark
until dawn had broken. The doctor said Brenda must have been dead at
least six hours. There were no signs of violence. She just lay across
the arm of the chair with that look on her face. George and Owen were
singing snatches of songs and gibbering like two great apes. Oh, it was
awful to see! I couldn't stand it, and the doctor was as white as a
sheet. Indeed, he fell into a chair in a sort of faint, and we nearly
had him on our hands as well."

"Remarkable—most remarkable!" said Holmes, rising and taking his hat.
"I think, perhaps, we had better go down to Tredannick Wartha without
further delay. I confess that I have seldom known a case which at first
sight presented a more singular problem."


Our proceedings of that first morning did little to advance the
investigation. It was marked, however, at the outset by an incident
which left the most sinister impression upon my mind. The approach to
the spot at which the tragedy occurred is down a narrow, winding,
country lane. While we made our way along it we heard the rattle of a
carriage coming towards us and stood aside to let it pass. As it drove
by us I caught a glimpse through the closed window of a horribly
contorted, grinning face glaring out at us. Those staring eyes and
gnashing teeth flashed past us like a dreadful vision.

"My brothers!" cried Mortimer Tregennis, white to his lips. "They are
taking them to Helston."

We looked with horror after the black carriage, lumbering upon its way.
Then we turned our steps towards this ill-omened house in which they
had met their strange fate.

It was a large and bright dwelling, rather a villa than a cottage, with
a considerable garden which was already, in that Cornish air, well
filled with spring flowers. Towards this garden the window of the
sitting-room fronted, and from it, according to Mortimer Tregennis,
must have come that thing of evil which had by sheer horror in a single
instant blasted their minds. Holmes walked slowly and thoughtfully
among the flower-plots and along the path before we entered the porch.
So absorbed was he in his thoughts, I remember, that he stumbled over
the watering-pot, upset its contents, and deluged both our feet and the
garden path. Inside the house we were met by the elderly Cornish
housekeeper, Mrs. Porter, who, with the aid of a young girl, looked
after the wants of the family. She readily answered all Holmes's
questions. She had heard nothing in the night. Her employers had all
been in excellent spirits lately, and she had never known them more
cheerful and prosperous. She had fainted with horror upon entering the
room in the morning and seeing that dreadful company round the table.
She had, when she recovered, thrown open the window to let the morning
air in, and had run down to the lane, whence she sent a farm-lad for
the doctor. The lady was on her bed upstairs if we cared to see her. It
took four strong men to get the brothers into the asylum carriage. She
would not herself stay in the house another day and was starting that
very afternoon to rejoin her family at St. Ives.

We ascended the stairs and viewed the body. Miss Brenda Tregennis had
been a very beautiful girl, though now verging upon middle age. Her
dark, clear-cut face was handsome, even in death, but there still
lingered upon it something of that convulsion of horror which had been
her last human emotion. From her bedroom we descended to the
sitting-room, where this strange tragedy had actually occurred. The
charred ashes of the overnight fire lay in the grate. On the table were
the four guttered and burned-out candles, with the cards scattered over
its surface. The chairs had been moved back against the walls, but all
else was as it had been the night before. Holmes paced with light,
swift steps about the room; he sat in the various chairs, drawing them
up and reconstructing their positions. He tested how much of the garden
was visible; he examined the floor, the ceiling, and the fireplace; but
never once did I see that sudden brightening of his eyes and tightening
of his lips which would have told me that he saw some gleam of light in
this utter darkness.

"Why a fire?" he asked once. "Had they always a fire in this small room
on a spring evening?"

Mortimer Tregennis explained that the night was cold and damp. For that
reason, after his arrival, the fire was lit. "What are you going to do
now, Mr. Holmes?" he asked.

My friend smiled and laid his hand upon my arm. "I think, Watson, that
I shall resume that course of tobacco-poisoning which you have so often
and so justly condemned," said he. "With your permission, gentlemen, we
will now return to our cottage, for I am not aware that any new factor
is likely to come to our notice here. I will turn the facts over in my
mind, Mr. Tregennis, and should anything occur to me I will certainly
communicate with you and the vicar. In the meantime I wish you both
good-morning."

It was not until long after we were back in Poldhu Cottage that Holmes
broke his complete and absorbed silence. He sat coiled in his armchair,
his haggard and ascetic face hardly visible amid the blue swirl of his
tobacco smoke, his black brows drawn down, his forehead contracted, his
eyes vacant and far away. Finally he laid down his pipe and sprang to
his feet.

"It won't do, Watson!" said he with a laugh. "Let us walk along the
cliffs together and search for flint arrows. We are more likely to find
them than clues to this problem. To let the brain work without
sufficient material is like racing an engine. It racks itself to
pieces. The sea air, sunshine, and patience, Watson—all else will come.

"Now, let us calmly define our position, Watson," he continued as we
skirted the cliffs together. "Let us get a firm grip of the very little
which we DO know, so that when fresh facts arise we may be ready to fit
them into their places. I take it, in the first place, that neither of
us is prepared to admit diabolical intrusions into the affairs of men.
Let us begin by ruling that entirely out of our minds. Very good. There
remain three persons who have been grievously stricken by some
conscious or unconscious human agency. That is firm ground. Now, when
did this occur? Evidently, assuming his narrative to be true, it was
immediately after Mr. Mortimer Tregennis had left the room. That is a
very important point. The presumption is that it was within a few
minutes afterwards. The cards still lay upon the table. It was already
past their usual hour for bed. Yet they had not changed their position
or pushed back their chairs. I repeat, then, that the occurrence was
immediately after his departure, and not later than eleven o'clock last
night.

"Our next obvious step is to check, so far as we can, the movements of
Mortimer Tregennis after he left the room. In this there is no
difficulty, and they seem to be above suspicion. Knowing my methods as
you do, you were, of course, conscious of the somewhat clumsy water-pot
expedient by which I obtained a clearer impress of his foot than might
otherwise have been possible. The wet, sandy path took it admirably.
Last night was also wet, you will remember, and it was not
difficult—having obtained a sample print—to pick out his track among
others and to follow his movements. He appears to have walked away
swiftly in the direction of the vicarage.

"If, then, Mortimer Tregennis disappeared from the scene, and yet some
outside person affected the card-players, how can we reconstruct that
person, and how was such an impression of horror conveyed? Mrs. Porter
may be eliminated. She is evidently harmless. Is there any evidence
that someone crept up to the garden window and in some manner produced
so terrific an effect that he drove those who saw it out of their
senses? The only suggestion in this direction comes from Mortimer
Tregennis himself, who says that his brother spoke about some movement
in the garden. That is certainly remarkable, as the night was rainy,
cloudy, and dark. Anyone who had the design to alarm these people would
be compelled to place his very face against the glass before he could
be seen. There is a three-foot flower-border outside this window, but
no indication of a footmark. It is difficult to imagine, then, how an
outsider could have made so terrible an impression upon the company,
nor have we found any possible motive for so strange and elaborate an
attempt. You perceive our difficulties, Watson?"

"They are only too clear," I answered with conviction.

"And yet, with a little more material, we may prove that they are not
insurmountable," said Holmes. "I fancy that among your extensive
archives, Watson, you may find some which were nearly as obscure.
Meanwhile, we shall put the case aside until more accurate data are
available, and devote the rest of our morning to the pursuit of
neolithic man."

I may have commented upon my friend's power of mental detachment, but
never have I wondered at it more than upon that spring morning in
Cornwall when for two hours he discoursed upon celts, arrowheads, and
shards, as lightly as if no sinister mystery were waiting for his
solution. It was not until we had returned in the afternoon to our
cottage that we found a visitor awaiting us, who soon brought our minds
back to the matter in hand. Neither of us needed to be told who that
visitor was. The huge body, the craggy and deeply seamed face with the
fierce eyes and hawk-like nose, the grizzled hair which nearly brushed
our cottage ceiling, the beard—golden at the fringes and white near the
lips, save for the nicotine stain from his perpetual cigar—all these
were as well known in London as in Africa, and could only be associated
with the tremendous personality of Dr. Leon Sterndale, the great
lion-hunter and explorer.

We had heard of his presence in the district and had once or twice
caught sight of his tall figure upon the moorland paths. He made no
advances to us, however, nor would we have dreamed of doing so to him,
as it was well known that it was his love of seclusion which caused him
to spend the greater part of the intervals between his journeys in a
small bungalow buried in the lonely wood of Beauchamp Arriance. Here,
amid his books and his maps, he lived an absolutely lonely life,
attending to his own simple wants and paying little apparent heed to
the affairs of his neighbours. It was a surprise to me, therefore, to
hear him asking Holmes in an eager voice whether he had made any
advance in his reconstruction of this mysterious episode. "The county
police are utterly at fault," said he, "but perhaps your wider
experience has suggested some conceivable explanation. My only claim to
being taken into your confidence is that during my many residences here
I have come to know this family of Tregennis very well—indeed, upon my
Cornish mother's side I could call them cousins—and their strange fate
has naturally been a great shock to me. I may tell you that I had got
as far as Plymouth upon my way to Africa, but the news reached me this
morning, and I came straight back again to help in the inquiry."

Holmes raised his eyebrows.

"Did you lose your boat through it?"

"I will take the next."

"Dear me! that is friendship indeed."

"I tell you they were relatives."

"Quite so—cousins of your mother. Was your baggage aboard the ship?"

"Some of it, but the main part at the hotel."

"I see. But surely this event could not have found its way into the
Plymouth morning papers."

"No, sir; I had a telegram."

"Might I ask from whom?"

A shadow passed over the gaunt face of the explorer.

"You are very inquisitive, Mr. Holmes."

"It is my business."

With an effort Dr. Sterndale recovered his ruffled composure.

"I have no objection to telling you," he said. "It was Mr. Roundhay,
the vicar, who sent me the telegram which recalled me."

"Thank you," said Holmes. "I may say in answer to your original
question that I have not cleared my mind entirely on the subject of
this case, but that I have every hope of reaching some conclusion. It
would be premature to say more."

"Perhaps you would not mind telling me if your suspicions point in any
particular direction?"

"No, I can hardly answer that."

"Then I have wasted my time and need not prolong my visit." The famous
doctor strode out of our cottage in considerable ill-humour, and within
five minutes Holmes had followed him. I saw him no more until the
evening, when he returned with a slow step and haggard face which
assured me that he had made no great progress with his investigation.
He glanced at a telegram which awaited him and threw it into the grate.

"From the Plymouth hotel, Watson," he said. "I learned the name of it
from the vicar, and I wired to make certain that Dr. Leon Sterndale's
account was true. It appears that he did indeed spend last night there,
and that he has actually allowed some of his baggage to go on to
Africa, while he returned to be present at this investigation. What do
you make of that, Watson?"

"He is deeply interested."

"Deeply interested—yes. There is a thread here which we had not yet
grasped and which might lead us through the tangle. Cheer up, Watson,
for I am very sure that our material has not yet all come to hand. When
it does we may soon leave our difficulties behind us."

Little did I think how soon the words of Holmes would be realized, or
how strange and sinister would be that new development which opened up
an entirely fresh line of investigation. I was shaving at my window in
the morning when I heard the rattle of hoofs and, looking up, saw a
dog-cart coming at a gallop down the road. It pulled up at our door,
and our friend, the vicar, sprang from it and rushed up our garden
path. Holmes was already dressed, and we hastened down to meet him.

Our visitor was so excited that he could hardly articulate, but at last
in gasps and bursts his tragic story came out of him.

"We are devil-ridden, Mr. Holmes! My poor parish is devil-ridden!" he
cried. "Satan himself is loose in it! We are given over into his
hands!" He danced about in his agitation, a ludicrous object if it were
not for his ashy face and startled eyes. Finally he shot out his
terrible news.

"Mr. Mortimer Tregennis died during the night, and with exactly the
same symptoms as the rest of his family."

Holmes sprang to his feet, all energy in an instant.

"Can you fit us both into your dog-cart?"

"Yes, I can."

"Then, Watson, we will postpone our breakfast. Mr. Roundhay, we are
entirely at your disposal. Hurry—hurry, before things get disarranged."

The lodger occupied two rooms at the vicarage, which were in an angle
by themselves, the one above the other. Below was a large sitting-room;
above, his bedroom. They looked out upon a croquet lawn which came up
to the windows. We had arrived before the doctor or the police, so that
everything was absolutely undisturbed. Let me describe exactly the
scene as we saw it upon that misty March morning. It has left an
impression which can never be effaced from my mind.

The atmosphere of the room was of a horrible and depressing stuffiness.
The servant who had first entered had thrown up the window, or it would
have been even more intolerable. This might partly be due to the fact
that a lamp stood flaring and smoking on the centre table. Beside it
sat the dead man, leaning back in his chair, his thin beard projecting,
his spectacles pushed up on to his forehead, and his lean dark face
turned towards the window and twisted into the same distortion of
terror which had marked the features of his dead sister. His limbs were
convulsed and his fingers contorted as though he had died in a very
paroxysm of fear. He was fully clothed, though there were signs that
his dressing had been done in a hurry. We had already learned that his
bed had been slept in, and that the tragic end had come to him in the
early morning.

One realized the red-hot energy which underlay Holmes's phlegmatic
exterior when one saw the sudden change which came over him from the
moment that he entered the fatal apartment. In an instant he was tense
and alert, his eyes shining, his face set, his limbs quivering with
eager activity. He was out on the lawn, in through the window, round
the room, and up into the bedroom, for all the world like a dashing
foxhound drawing a cover. In the bedroom he made a rapid cast around
and ended by throwing open the window, which appeared to give him some
fresh cause for excitement, for he leaned out of it with loud
ejaculations of interest and delight. Then he rushed down the stair,
out through the open window, threw himself upon his face on the lawn,
sprang up and into the room once more, all with the energy of the
hunter who is at the very heels of his quarry. The lamp, which was an
ordinary standard, he examined with minute care, making certain
measurements upon its bowl. He carefully scrutinized with his lens the
talc shield which covered the top of the chimney and scraped off some
ashes which adhered to its upper surface, putting some of them into an
envelope, which he placed in his pocketbook. Finally, just as the
doctor and the official police put in an appearance, he beckoned to the
vicar and we all three went out upon the lawn.

"I am glad to say that my investigation has not been entirely barren,"
he remarked. "I cannot remain to discuss the matter with the police,
but I should be exceedingly obliged, Mr. Roundhay, if you would give
the inspector my compliments and direct his attention to the bedroom
window and to the sitting-room lamp. Each is suggestive, and together
they are almost conclusive. If the police would desire further
information I shall be happy to see any of them at the cottage. And
now, Watson, I think that, perhaps, we shall be better employed
elsewhere."

It may be that the police resented the intrusion of an amateur, or that
they imagined themselves to be upon some hopeful line of investigation;
but it is certain that we heard nothing from them for the next two
days. During this time Holmes spent some of his time smoking and
dreaming in the cottage; but a greater portion in country walks which
he undertook alone, returning after many hours without remark as to
where he had been. One experiment served to show me the line of his
investigation. He had bought a lamp which was the duplicate of the one
which had burned in the room of Mortimer Tregennis on the morning of
the tragedy. This he filled with the same oil as that used at the
vicarage, and he carefully timed the period which it would take to be
exhausted. Another experiment which he made was of a more unpleasant
nature, and one which I am not likely ever to forget.

"You will remember, Watson," he remarked one afternoon, "that there is
a single common point of resemblance in the varying reports which have
reached us. This concerns the effect of the atmosphere of the room in
each case upon those who had first entered it. You will recollect that
Mortimer Tregennis, in describing the episode of his last visit to his
brother's house, remarked that the doctor on entering the room fell
into a chair? You had forgotten? Well I can answer for it that it was
so. Now, you will remember also that Mrs. Porter, the housekeeper, told
us that she herself fainted upon entering the room and had afterwards
opened the window. In the second case—that of Mortimer Tregennis
himself—you cannot have forgotten the horrible stuffiness of the room
when we arrived, though the servant had thrown open the window. That
servant, I found upon inquiry, was so ill that she had gone to her bed.
You will admit, Watson, that these facts are very suggestive. In each
case there is evidence of a poisonous atmosphere. In each case, also,
there is combustion going on in the room—in the one case a fire, in the
other a lamp. The fire was needed, but the lamp was lit—as a comparison
of the oil consumed will show—long after it was broad daylight. Why?
Surely because there is some connection between three things—the
burning, the stuffy atmosphere, and, finally, the madness or death of
those unfortunate people. That is clear, is it not?"

"It would appear so."

"At least we may accept it as a working hypothesis. We will suppose,
then, that something was burned in each case which produced an
atmosphere causing strange toxic effects. Very good. In the first
instance—that of the Tregennis family—this substance was placed in the
fire. Now the window was shut, but the fire would naturally carry fumes
to some extent up the chimney. Hence one would expect the effects of
the poison to be less than in the second case, where there was less
escape for the vapour. The result seems to indicate that it was so,
since in the first case only the woman, who had presumably the more
sensitive organism, was killed, the others exhibiting that temporary or
permanent lunacy which is evidently the first effect of the drug. In
the second case the result was complete. The facts, therefore, seem to
bear out the theory of a poison which worked by combustion.

"With this train of reasoning in my head I naturally looked about in
Mortimer Tregennis's room to find some remains of this substance. The
obvious place to look was the talc shelf or smoke-guard of the lamp.
There, sure enough, I perceived a number of flaky ashes, and round the
edges a fringe of brownish powder, which had not yet been consumed.
Half of this I took, as you saw, and I placed it in an envelope."

"Why half, Holmes?"

"It is not for me, my dear Watson, to stand in the way of the official
police force. I leave them all the evidence which I found. The poison
still remained upon the talc had they the wit to find it. Now, Watson,
we will light our lamp; we will, however, take the precaution to open
our window to avoid the premature decease of two deserving members of
society, and you will seat yourself near that open window in an
armchair unless, like a sensible man, you determine to have nothing to
do with the affair. Oh, you will see it out, will you? I thought I knew
my Watson. This chair I will place opposite yours, so that we may be
the same distance from the poison and face to face. The door we will
leave ajar. Each is now in a position to watch the other and to bring
the experiment to an end should the symptoms seem alarming. Is that all
clear? Well, then, I take our powder—or what remains of it—from the
envelope, and I lay it above the burning lamp. So! Now, Watson, let us
sit down and await developments."

They were not long in coming. I had hardly settled in my chair before I
was conscious of a thick, musky odour, subtle and nauseous. At the very
first whiff of it my brain and my imagination were beyond all control.
A thick, black cloud swirled before my eyes, and my mind told me that
in this cloud, unseen as yet, but about to spring out upon my appalled
senses, lurked all that was vaguely horrible, all that was monstrous
and inconceivably wicked in the universe. Vague shapes swirled and swam
amid the dark cloud-bank, each a menace and a warning of something
coming, the advent of some unspeakable dweller upon the threshold,
whose very shadow would blast my soul. A freezing horror took
possession of me. I felt that my hair was rising, that my eyes were
protruding, that my mouth was opened, and my tongue like leather. The
turmoil within my brain was such that something must surely snap. I
tried to scream and was vaguely aware of some hoarse croak which was my
own voice, but distant and detached from myself. At the same moment, in
some effort of escape, I broke through that cloud of despair and had a
glimpse of Holmes's face, white, rigid, and drawn with horror—the very
look which I had seen upon the features of the dead. It was that vision
which gave me an instant of sanity and of strength. I dashed from my
chair, threw my arms round Holmes, and together we lurched through the
door, and an instant afterwards had thrown ourselves down upon the
grass plot and were lying side by side, conscious only of the glorious
sunshine which was bursting its way through the hellish cloud of terror
which had girt us in. Slowly it rose from our souls like the mists from
a landscape until peace and reason had returned, and we were sitting
upon the grass, wiping our clammy foreheads, and looking with
apprehension at each other to mark the last traces of that terrific
experience which we had undergone.

"Upon my word, Watson!" said Holmes at last with an unsteady voice, "I
owe you both my thanks and an apology. It was an unjustifiable
experiment even for one's self, and doubly so for a friend. I am really
very sorry."

"You know," I answered with some emotion, for I have never seen so much
of Holmes's heart before, "that it is my greatest joy and privilege to
help you."

He relapsed at once into the half-humorous, half-cynical vein which was
his habitual attitude to those about him. "It would be superfluous to
drive us mad, my dear Watson," said he. "A candid observer would
certainly declare that we were so already before we embarked upon so
wild an experiment. I confess that I never imagined that the effect
could be so sudden and so severe." He dashed into the cottage, and,
reappearing with the burning lamp held at full arm's length, he threw
it among a bank of brambles. "We must give the room a little time to
clear. I take it, Watson, that you have no longer a shadow of a doubt
as to how these tragedies were produced?"

"None whatever."

"But the cause remains as obscure as before. Come into the arbour here
and let us discuss it together. That villainous stuff seems still to
linger round my throat. I think we must admit that all the evidence
points to this man, Mortimer Tregennis, having been the criminal in the
first tragedy, though he was the victim in the second one. We must
remember, in the first place, that there is some story of a family
quarrel, followed by a reconciliation. How bitter that quarrel may have
been, or how hollow the reconciliation we cannot tell. When I think of
Mortimer Tregennis, with the foxy face and the small shrewd, beady eyes
behind the spectacles, he is not a man whom I should judge to be of a
particularly forgiving disposition. Well, in the next place, you will
remember that this idea of someone moving in the garden, which took our
attention for a moment from the real cause of the tragedy, emanated
from him. He had a motive in misleading us. Finally, if he did not
throw the substance into the fire at the moment of leaving the room,
who did do so? The affair happened immediately after his departure. Had
anyone else come in, the family would certainly have risen from the
table. Besides, in peaceful Cornwall, visitors did not arrive after ten
o'clock at night. We may take it, then, that all the evidence points to
Mortimer Tregennis as the culprit."

"Then his own death was suicide!"

"Well, Watson, it is on the face of it a not impossible supposition.
The man who had the guilt upon his soul of having brought such a fate
upon his own family might well be driven by remorse to inflict it upon
himself. There are, however, some cogent reasons against it.
Fortunately, there is one man in England who knows all about it, and I
have made arrangements by which we shall hear the facts this afternoon
from his own lips. Ah! he is a little before his time. Perhaps you
would kindly step this way, Dr. Leon Sterndale. We have been conducing
a chemical experiment indoors which has left our little room hardly fit
for the reception of so distinguished a visitor."

I had heard the click of the garden gate, and now the majestic figure
of the great African explorer appeared upon the path. He turned in some
surprise towards the rustic arbour in which we sat.

"You sent for me, Mr. Holmes. I had your note about an hour ago, and I
have come, though I really do not know why I should obey your summons."

"Perhaps we can clear the point up before we separate," said Holmes.
"Meanwhile, I am much obliged to you for your courteous acquiescence.
You will excuse this informal reception in the open air, but my friend
Watson and I have nearly furnished an additional chapter to what the
papers call the Cornish Horror, and we prefer a clear atmosphere for
the present. Perhaps, since the matters which we have to discuss will
affect you personally in a very intimate fashion, it is as well that we
should talk where there can be no eavesdropping."

The explorer took his cigar from his lips and gazed sternly at my
companion.

"I am at a loss to know, sir," he said, "what you can have to speak
about which affects me personally in a very intimate fashion."

"The killing of Mortimer Tregennis," said Holmes.

For a moment I wished that I were armed. Sterndale's fierce face turned
to a dusky red, his eyes glared, and the knotted, passionate veins
started out in his forehead, while he sprang forward with clenched
hands towards my companion. Then he stopped, and with a violent effort
he resumed a cold, rigid calmness, which was, perhaps, more suggestive
of danger than his hot-headed outburst.

"I have lived so long among savages and beyond the law," said he, "that
I have got into the way of being a law to myself. You would do well,
Mr. Holmes, not to forget it, for I have no desire to do you an
injury."

"Nor have I any desire to do you an injury, Dr. Sterndale. Surely the
clearest proof of it is that, knowing what I know, I have sent for you
and not for the police."

Sterndale sat down with a gasp, overawed for, perhaps, the first time
in his adventurous life. There was a calm assurance of power in
Holmes's manner which could not be withstood. Our visitor stammered for
a moment, his great hands opening and shutting in his agitation.

"What do you mean?" he asked at last. "If this is bluff upon your part,
Mr. Holmes, you have chosen a bad man for your experiment. Let us have
no more beating about the bush. What DO you mean?"

"I will tell you," said Holmes, "and the reason why I tell you is that
I hope frankness may beget frankness. What my next step may be will
depend entirely upon the nature of your own defence."

"My defence?"

"Yes, sir."

"My defence against what?"

"Against the charge of killing Mortimer Tregennis."

Sterndale mopped his forehead with his handkerchief. "Upon my word, you
are getting on," said he. "Do all your successes depend upon this
prodigious power of bluff?"

"The bluff," said Holmes sternly, "is upon your side, Dr. Leon
Sterndale, and not upon mine. As a proof I will tell you some of the
facts upon which my conclusions are based. Of your return from
Plymouth, allowing much of your property to go on to Africa, I will say
nothing save that it first informed me that you were one of the factors
which had to be taken into account in reconstructing this drama—"

"I came back—"

"I have heard your reasons and regard them as unconvincing and
inadequate. We will pass that. You came down here to ask me whom I
suspected. I refused to answer you. You then went to the vicarage,
waited outside it for some time, and finally returned to your cottage."

"How do you know that?"

"I followed you."

"I saw no one."

"That is what you may expect to see when I follow you. You spent a
restless night at your cottage, and you formed certain plans, which in
the early morning you proceeded to put into execution. Leaving your
door just as day was breaking, you filled your pocket with some reddish
gravel that was lying heaped beside your gate."

Sterndale gave a violent start and looked at Holmes in amazement.

"You then walked swiftly for the mile which separated you from the
vicarage. You were wearing, I may remark, the same pair of ribbed
tennis shoes which are at the present moment upon your feet. At the
vicarage you passed through the orchard and the side hedge, coming out
under the window of the lodger Tregennis. It was now daylight, but the
household was not yet stirring. You drew some of the gravel from your
pocket, and you threw it up at the window above you."

Sterndale sprang to his feet.

"I believe that you are the devil himself!" he cried.

Holmes smiled at the compliment. "It took two, or possibly three,
handfuls before the lodger came to the window. You beckoned him to come
down. He dressed hurriedly and descended to his sitting-room. You
entered by the window. There was an interview—a short one—during which
you walked up and down the room. Then you passed out and closed the
window, standing on the lawn outside smoking a cigar and watching what
occurred. Finally, after the death of Tregennis, you withdrew as you
had come. Now, Dr. Sterndale, how do you justify such conduct, and what
were the motives for your actions? If you prevaricate or trifle with
me, I give you my assurance that the matter will pass out of my hands
forever."

Our visitor's face had turned ashen gray as he listened to the words of
his accuser. Now he sat for some time in thought with his face sunk in
his hands. Then with a sudden impulsive gesture he plucked a photograph
from his breast-pocket and threw it on the rustic table before us.

"That is why I have done it," said he.

It showed the bust and face of a very beautiful woman. Holmes stooped
over it.

"Brenda Tregennis," said he.

"Yes, Brenda Tregennis," repeated our visitor. "For years I have loved
her. For years she has loved me. There is the secret of that Cornish
seclusion which people have marvelled at. It has brought me close to
the one thing on earth that was dear to me. I could not marry her, for
I have a wife who has left me for years and yet whom, by the deplorable
laws of England, I could not divorce. For years Brenda waited. For
years I waited. And this is what we have waited for." A terrible sob
shook his great frame, and he clutched his throat under his brindled
beard. Then with an effort he mastered himself and spoke on:

"The vicar knew. He was in our confidence. He would tell you that she
was an angel upon earth. That was why he telegraphed to me and I
returned. What was my baggage or Africa to me when I learned that such
a fate had come upon my darling? There you have the missing clue to my
action, Mr. Holmes."

"Proceed," said my friend.

Dr. Sterndale drew from his pocket a paper packet and laid it upon the
table. On the outside was written "Radix pedis diaboli" with a red
poison label beneath it. He pushed it towards me. "I understand that
you are a doctor, sir. Have you ever heard of this preparation?"

"Devil's-foot root! No, I have never heard of it."

"It is no reflection upon your professional knowledge," said he, "for I
believe that, save for one sample in a laboratory at Buda, there is no
other specimen in Europe. It has not yet found its way either into the
pharmacopoeia or into the literature of toxicology. The root is shaped
like a foot, half human, half goatlike; hence the fanciful name given
by a botanical missionary. It is used as an ordeal poison by the
medicine-men in certain districts of West Africa and is kept as a
secret among them. This particular specimen I obtained under very
extraordinary circumstances in the Ubangi country." He opened the paper
as he spoke and disclosed a heap of reddish-brown, snuff-like powder.

"Well, sir?" asked Holmes sternly.

"I am about to tell you, Mr. Holmes, all that actually occurred, for
you already know so much that it is clearly to my interest that you
should know all. I have already explained the relationship in which I
stood to the Tregennis family. For the sake of the sister I was
friendly with the brothers. There was a family quarrel about money
which estranged this man Mortimer, but it was supposed to be made up,
and I afterwards met him as I did the others. He was a sly, subtle,
scheming man, and several things arose which gave me a suspicion of
him, but I had no cause for any positive quarrel.

"One day, only a couple of weeks ago, he came down to my cottage and I
showed him some of my African curiosities. Among other things I
exhibited this powder, and I told him of its strange properties, how it
stimulates those brain centres which control the emotion of fear, and
how either madness or death is the fate of the unhappy native who is
subjected to the ordeal by the priest of his tribe. I told him also how
powerless European science would be to detect it. How he took it I
cannot say, for I never left the room, but there is no doubt that it
was then, while I was opening cabinets and stooping to boxes, that he
managed to abstract some of the devil's-foot root. I well remember how
he plied me with questions as to the amount and the time that was
needed for its effect, but I little dreamed that he could have a
personal reason for asking.

"I thought no more of the matter until the vicar's telegram reached me
at Plymouth. This villain had thought that I would be at sea before the
news could reach me, and that I should be lost for years in Africa. But
I returned at once. Of course, I could not listen to the details
without feeling assured that my poison had been used. I came round to
see you on the chance that some other explanation had suggested itself
to you. But there could be none. I was convinced that Mortimer
Tregennis was the murderer; that for the sake of money, and with the
idea, perhaps, that if the other members of his family were all insane
he would be the sole guardian of their joint property, he had used the
devil's-foot powder upon them, driven two of them out of their senses,
and killed his sister Brenda, the one human being whom I have ever
loved or who has ever loved me. There was his crime; what was to be his
punishment?

"Should I appeal to the law? Where were my proofs? I knew that the
facts were true, but could I help to make a jury of countrymen believe
so fantastic a story? I might or I might not. But I could not afford to
fail. My soul cried out for revenge. I have said to you once before,
Mr. Holmes, that I have spent much of my life outside the law, and that
I have come at last to be a law to myself. So it was even now. I
determined that the fate which he had given to others should be shared
by himself. Either that or I would do justice upon him with my own
hand. In all England there can be no man who sets less value upon his
own life than I do at the present moment.

"Now I have told you all. You have yourself supplied the rest. I did,
as you say, after a restless night, set off early from my cottage. I
foresaw the difficulty of arousing him, so I gathered some gravel from
the pile which you have mentioned, and I used it to throw up to his
window. He came down and admitted me through the window of the
sitting-room. I laid his offence before him. I told him that I had come
both as judge and executioner. The wretch sank into a chair, paralyzed
at the sight of my revolver. I lit the lamp, put the powder above it,
and stood outside the window, ready to carry out my threat to shoot him
should he try to leave the room. In five minutes he died. My God! how
he died! But my heart was flint, for he endured nothing which my
innocent darling had not felt before him. There is my story, Mr.
Holmes. Perhaps, if you loved a woman, you would have done as much
yourself. At any rate, I am in your hands. You can take what steps you
like. As I have already said, there is no man living who can fear death
less than I do."

Holmes sat for some little time in silence.

"What were your plans?" he asked at last.

"I had intended to bury myself in central Africa. My work there is but
half finished."

"Go and do the other half," said Holmes. "I, at least, am not prepared
to prevent you."

Dr. Sterndale raised his giant figure, bowed gravely, and walked from
the arbour. Holmes lit his pipe and handed me his pouch.

"Some fumes which are not poisonous would be a welcome change," said
he. "I think you must agree, Watson, that it is not a case in which we
are called upon to interfere. Our investigation has been independent,
and our action shall be so also. You would not denounce the man?"

"Certainly not," I answered.

"I have never loved, Watson, but if I did and if the woman I loved had
met such an end, I might act even as our lawless lion-hunter has done.
Who knows? Well, Watson, I will not offend your intelligence by
explaining what is obvious. The gravel upon the window-sill was, of
course, the starting-point of my research. It was unlike anything in
the vicarage garden. Only when my attention had been drawn to Dr.
Sterndale and his cottage did I find its counterpart. The lamp shining
in broad daylight and the remains of powder upon the shield were
successive links in a fairly obvious chain. And now, my dear Watson, I
think we may dismiss the matter from our mind and go back with a clear
conscience to the study of those Chaldean roots which are surely to be
traced in the Cornish branch of the great Celtic speech."



The Adventure of the Red Circle

 PART I

"Well, Mrs. Warren, I cannot see that you have any particular cause for
uneasiness, nor do I understand why I, whose time is of some value,
should interfere in the matter. I really have other things to engage
me." So spoke Sherlock Holmes and turned back to the great scrapbook in
which he was arranging and indexing some of his recent material.

But the landlady had the pertinacity and also the cunning of her sex.
She held her ground firmly.

"You arranged an affair for a lodger of mine last year," she said—"Mr.
Fairdale Hobbs."

"Ah, yes—a simple matter."

"But he would never cease talking of it—your kindness, sir, and the way
in which you brought light into the darkness. I remembered his words
when I was in doubt and darkness myself. I know you could if you only
would."

Holmes was accessible upon the side of flattery, and also, to do him
justice, upon the side of kindliness. The two forces made him lay down
his gum-brush with a sigh of resignation and push back his chair.

"Well, well, Mrs. Warren, let us hear about it, then. You don't object
to tobacco, I take it? Thank you, Watson—the matches! You are uneasy,
as I understand, because your new lodger remains in his rooms and you
cannot see him. Why, bless you, Mrs. Warren, if I were your lodger you
often would not see me for weeks on end."

"No doubt, sir; but this is different. It frightens me, Mr. Holmes. I
can't sleep for fright. To hear his quick step moving here and moving
there from early morning to late at night, and yet never to catch so
much as a glimpse of him—it's more than I can stand. My husband is as
nervous over it as I am, but he is out at his work all day, while I get
no rest from it. What is he hiding for? What has he done? Except for
the girl, I am all alone in the house with him, and it's more than my
nerves can stand."

Holmes leaned forward and laid his long, thin fingers upon the woman's
shoulder. He had an almost hypnotic power of soothing when he wished.
The scared look faded from her eyes, and her agitated features smoothed
into their usual commonplace. She sat down in the chair which he had
indicated.

"If I take it up I must understand every detail," said he. "Take time
to consider. The smallest point may be the most essential. You say that
the man came ten days ago and paid you for a fortnight's board and
lodging?"

"He asked my terms, sir. I said fifty shillings a week. There is a
small sitting-room and bedroom, and all complete, at the top of the
house."

"Well?"

"He said, 'I'll pay you five pounds a week if I can have it on my own
terms.' I'm a poor woman, sir, and Mr. Warren earns little, and the
money meant much to me. He took out a ten-pound note, and he held it
out to me then and there. 'You can have the same every fortnight for a
long time to come if you keep the terms,' he said. 'If not, I'll have
no more to do with you.'

"What were the terms?"

"Well, sir, they were that he was to have a key of the house. That was
all right. Lodgers often have them. Also, that he was to be left
entirely to himself and never, upon any excuse, to be disturbed."

"Nothing wonderful in that, surely?"

"Not in reason, sir. But this is out of all reason. He has been there
for ten days, and neither Mr. Warren, nor I, nor the girl has once set
eyes upon him. We can hear that quick step of his pacing up and down,
up and down, night, morning, and noon; but except on that first night
he had never once gone out of the house."

"Oh, he went out the first night, did he?"

"Yes, sir, and returned very late—after we were all in bed. He told me
after he had taken the rooms that he would do so and asked me not to
bar the door. I heard him come up the stair after midnight."

"But his meals?"

"It was his particular direction that we should always, when he rang,
leave his meal upon a chair, outside his door. Then he rings again when
he has finished, and we take it down from the same chair. If he wants
anything else he prints it on a slip of paper and leaves it."

"Prints it?"

"Yes, sir; prints it in pencil. Just the word, nothing more. Here's the
one I brought to show you—soap. Here's another—match. This is one he
left the first morning—daily gazette. I leave that paper with his
breakfast every morning."

"Dear me, Watson," said Homes, staring with great curiosity at the
slips of foolscap which the landlady had handed to him, "this is
certainly a little unusual. Seclusion I can understand; but why print?
Printing is a clumsy process. Why not write? What would it suggest,
Watson?"

"That he desired to conceal his handwriting."

"But why? What can it matter to him that his landlady should have a
word of his writing? Still, it may be as you say. Then, again, why such
laconic messages?"

"I cannot imagine."

"It opens a pleasing field for intelligent speculation. The words are
written with a broad-pointed, violet-tinted pencil of a not unusual
pattern. You will observe that the paper is torn away at the side here
after the printing was done, so that the 's' of 'soap' is partly gone.
Suggestive, Watson, is it not?"

"Of caution?"

"Exactly. There was evidently some mark, some thumbprint, something
which might give a clue to the person's identity. Now. Mrs. Warren, you
say that the man was of middle size, dark, and bearded. What age would
he be?"

"Youngish, sir—not over thirty."

"Well, can you give me no further indications?"

"He spoke good English, sir, and yet I thought he was a foreigner by
his accent."

"And he was well dressed?"

"Very smartly dressed, sir—quite the gentleman. Dark clothes—nothing
you would note."

"He gave no name?"

"No, sir."

"And has had no letters or callers?"

"None."

"But surely you or the girl enter his room of a morning?"

"No, sir; he looks after himself entirely."

"Dear me! that is certainly remarkable. What about his luggage?"

"He had one big brown bag with him—nothing else."

"Well, we don't seem to have much material to help us. Do you say
nothing has come out of that room—absolutely nothing?"

The landlady drew an envelope from her bag; from it she shook out two
burnt matches and a cigarette-end upon the table.

"They were on his tray this morning. I brought them because I had heard
that you can read great things out of small ones."

Holmes shrugged his shoulders.

"There is nothing here," said he. "The matches have, of course, been
used to light cigarettes. That is obvious from the shortness of the
burnt end. Half the match is consumed in lighting a pipe or cigar. But,
dear me! this cigarette stub is certainly remarkable. The gentleman was
bearded and moustached, you say?"

"Yes, sir."

"I don't understand that. I should say that only a clean-shaven man
could have smoked this. Why, Watson, even your modest moustache would
have been singed."

"A holder?" I suggested.

"No, no; the end is matted. I suppose there could not be two people in
your rooms, Mrs. Warren?"

"No, sir. He eats so little that I often wonder it can keep life in
one."

"Well, I think we must wait for a little more material. After all, you
have nothing to complain of. You have received your rent, and he is not
a troublesome lodger, though he is certainly an unusual one. He pays
you well, and if he chooses to lie concealed it is no direct business
of yours. We have no excuse for an intrusion upon his privacy until we
have some reason to think that there is a guilty reason for it. I've
taken up the matter, and I won't lose sight of it. Report to me if
anything fresh occurs, and rely upon my assistance if it should be
needed.

"There are certainly some points of interest in this case, Watson," he
remarked when the landlady had left us. "It may, of course, be
trivial—individual eccentricity; or it may be very much deeper than
appears on the surface. The first thing that strikes one is the obvious
possibility that the person now in the rooms may be entirely different
from the one who engaged them."

"Why should you think so?"

"Well, apart from this cigarette-end, was it not suggestive that the
only time the lodger went out was immediately after his taking the
rooms? He came back—or someone came back—when all witnesses were out of
the way. We have no proof that the person who came back was the person
who went out. Then, again, the man who took the rooms spoke English
well. This other, however, prints 'match' when it should have been
'matches.' I can imagine that the word was taken out of a dictionary,
which would give the noun but not the plural. The laconic style may be
to conceal the absence of knowledge of English. Yes, Watson, there are
good reasons to suspect that there has been a substitution of lodgers."

"But for what possible end?"

"Ah! there lies our problem. There is one rather obvious line of
investigation." He took down the great book in which, day by day, he
filed the agony columns of the various London journals. "Dear me!" said
he, turning over the pages, "what a chorus of groans, cries, and
bleatings! What a rag-bag of singular happenings! But surely the most
valuable hunting-ground that ever was given to a student of the
unusual! This person is alone and cannot be approached by letter
without a breach of that absolute secrecy which is desired. How is any
news or any message to reach him from without? Obviously by
advertisement through a newspaper. There seems no other way, and
fortunately we need concern ourselves with the one paper only. Here are
the Daily Gazette extracts of the last fortnight. 'Lady with a black
boa at Prince's Skating Club'—that we may pass. 'Surely Jimmy will not
break his mother's heart'—that appears to be irrelevant. 'If the lady
who fainted on Brixton bus'—she does not interest me. 'Every day my
heart longs—' Bleat, Watson—unmitigated bleat! Ah, this is a little
more possible. Listen to this: 'Be patient. Will find some sure means
of communications. Meanwhile, this column. G.' That is two days after
Mrs. Warren's lodger arrived. It sounds plausible, does it not? The
mysterious one could understand English, even if he could not print it.
Let us see if we can pick up the trace again. Yes, here we are—three
days later. 'Am making successful arrangements. Patience and prudence.
The clouds will pass. G.' Nothing for a week after that. Then comes
something much more definite: 'The path is clearing. If I find chance
signal message remember code agreed—One A, two B, and so on. You will
hear soon. G.' That was in yesterday's paper, and there is nothing in
to-day's. It's all very appropriate to Mrs. Warren's lodger. If we wait
a little, Watson, I don't doubt that the affair will grow more
intelligible."

So it proved; for in the morning I found my friend standing on the
hearthrug with his back to the fire and a smile of complete
satisfaction upon his face.

"How's this, Watson?" he cried, picking up the paper from the table.
"'High red house with white stone facings. Third floor. Second window
left. After dusk. G.' That is definite enough. I think after breakfast
we must make a little reconnaissance of Mrs. Warren's neighbourhood.
Ah, Mrs. Warren! what news do you bring us this morning?"

Our client had suddenly burst into the room with an explosive energy
which told of some new and momentous development.

"It's a police matter, Mr. Holmes!" she cried. "I'll have no more of
it! He shall pack out of there with his baggage. I would have gone
straight up and told him so, only I thought it was but fair to you to
take your opinion first. But I'm at the end of my patience, and when it
comes to knocking my old man about—"

"Knocking Mr. Warren about?"

"Using him roughly, anyway."

"But who used him roughly?"

"Ah! that's what we want to know! It was this morning, sir. Mr. Warren
is a timekeeper at Morton and Waylight's, in Tottenham Court Road. He
has to be out of the house before seven. Well, this morning he had not
gone ten paces down the road when two men came up behind him, threw a
coat over his head, and bundled him into a cab that was beside the
curb. They drove him an hour, and then opened the door and shot him
out. He lay in the roadway so shaken in his wits that he never saw what
became of the cab. When he picked himself up he found he was on
Hampstead Heath; so he took a bus home, and there he lies now on his
sofa, while I came straight round to tell you what had happened."

"Most interesting," said Holmes. "Did he observe the appearance of
these men—did he hear them talk?"

"No; he is clean dazed. He just knows that he was lifted up as if by
magic and dropped as if by magic. Two at least were in it, and maybe
three."

"And you connect this attack with your lodger?"

"Well, we've lived there fifteen years and no such happenings ever came
before. I've had enough of him. Money's not everything. I'll have him
out of my house before the day is done."

"Wait a bit, Mrs. Warren. Do nothing rash. I begin to think that this
affair may be very much more important than appeared at first sight. It
is clear now that some danger is threatening your lodger. It is equally
clear that his enemies, lying in wait for him near your door, mistook
your husband for him in the foggy morning light. On discovering their
mistake they released him. What they would have done had it not been a
mistake, we can only conjecture."

"Well, what am I to do, Mr. Holmes?"

"I have a great fancy to see this lodger of yours, Mrs. Warren."

"I don't see how that is to be managed, unless you break in the door. I
always hear him unlock it as I go down the stair after I leave the
tray."

"He has to take the tray in. Surely we could conceal ourselves and see
him do it."

The landlady thought for a moment.

"Well, sir, there's the box-room opposite. I could arrange a
looking-glass, maybe, and if you were behind the door—"

"Excellent!" said Holmes. "When does he lunch?"

"About one, sir."

"Then Dr. Watson and I will come round in time. For the present, Mrs.
Warren, good-bye."

At half-past twelve we found ourselves upon the steps of Mrs. Warren's
house—a high, thin, yellow-brick edifice in Great Orme Street, a narrow
thoroughfare at the northeast side of the British Museum. Standing as
it does near the corner of the street, it commands a view down Howe
Street, with its more pretentious houses. Holmes pointed with a chuckle
to one of these, a row of residential flats, which projected so that
they could not fail to catch the eye.

"See, Watson!" said he. "'High red house with stone facings.' There is
the signal station all right. We know the place, and we know the code;
so surely our task should be simple. There's a 'to let' card in that
window. It is evidently an empty flat to which the confederate has
access. Well, Mrs. Warren, what now?"

"I have it all ready for you. If you will both come up and leave your
boots below on the landing, I'll put you there now."

It was an excellent hiding-place which she had arranged. The mirror was
so placed that, seated in the dark, we could very plainly see the door
opposite. We had hardly settled down in it, and Mrs. Warren left us,
when a distant tinkle announced that our mysterious neighbour had rung.
Presently the landlady appeared with the tray, laid it down upon a
chair beside the closed door, and then, treading heavily, departed.
Crouching together in the angle of the door, we kept our eyes fixed
upon the mirror. Suddenly, as the landlady's footsteps died away, there
was the creak of a turning key, the handle revolved, and two thin hands
darted out and lifted the tray from the chair. An instant later it was
hurriedly replaced, and I caught a glimpse of a dark, beautiful,
horrified face glaring at the narrow opening of the box-room. Then the
door crashed to, the key turned once more, and all was silence. Holmes
twitched my sleeve, and together we stole down the stair.

"I will call again in the evening," said he to the expectant landlady.
"I think, Watson, we can discuss this business better in our own
quarters."

"My surmise, as you saw, proved to be correct," said he, speaking from
the depths of his easy-chair. "There has been a substitution of
lodgers. What I did not foresee is that we should find a woman, and no
ordinary woman, Watson."

"She saw us."

"Well, she saw something to alarm her. That is certain. The general
sequence of events is pretty clear, is it not? A couple seek refuge in
London from a very terrible and instant danger. The measure of that
danger is the rigour of their precautions. The man, who has some work
which he must do, desires to leave the woman in absolute safety while
he does it. It is not an easy problem, but he solved it in an original
fashion, and so effectively that her presence was not even known to the
landlady who supplies her with food. The printed messages, as is now
evident, were to prevent her sex being discovered by her writing. The
man cannot come near the woman, or he will guide their enemies to her.
Since he cannot communicate with her direct, he has recourse to the
agony column of a paper. So far all is clear."

"But what is at the root of it?"

"Ah, yes, Watson—severely practical, as usual! What is at the root of
it all? Mrs. Warren's whimsical problem enlarges somewhat and assumes a
more sinister aspect as we proceed. This much we can say: that it is no
ordinary love escapade. You saw the woman's face at the sign of danger.
We have heard, too, of the attack upon the landlord, which was
undoubtedly meant for the lodger. These alarms, and the desperate need
for secrecy, argue that the matter is one of life or death. The attack
upon Mr. Warren further shows that the enemy, whoever they are, are
themselves not aware of the substitution of the female lodger for the
male. It is very curious and complex, Watson."

"Why should you go further in it? What have you to gain from it?"

"What, indeed? It is art for art's sake, Watson. I suppose when you
doctored you found yourself studying cases without thought of a fee?"

"For my education, Holmes."

"Education never ends, Watson. It is a series of lessons with the
greatest for the last. This is an instructive case. There is neither
money nor credit in it, and yet one would wish to tidy it up. When dusk
comes we should find ourselves one stage advanced in our
investigation."

When we returned to Mrs. Warren's rooms, the gloom of a London winter
evening had thickened into one gray curtain, a dead monotone of colour,
broken only by the sharp yellow squares of the windows and the blurred
haloes of the gas-lamps. As we peered from the darkened sitting-room of
the lodging-house, one more dim light glimmered high up through the
obscurity.

"Someone is moving in that room," said Holmes in a whisper, his gaunt
and eager face thrust forward to the window-pane. "Yes, I can see his
shadow. There he is again! He has a candle in his hand. Now he is
peering across. He wants to be sure that she is on the lookout. Now he
begins to flash. Take the message also, Watson, that we may check each
other. A single flash—that is A, surely. Now, then. How many did you
make it? Twenty. So did I. That should mean T. AT—that's intelligible
enough. Another T. Surely this is the beginning of a second word. Now,
then—TENTA. Dead stop. That can't be all, Watson? ATTENTA gives no
sense. Nor is it any better as three words AT, TEN, TA, unless T. A.
are a person's initials. There it goes again! What's that? ATTE—why, it
is the same message over again. Curious, Watson, very curious. Now he
is off once more! AT—why he is repeating it for the third time. ATTENTA
three times! How often will he repeat it? No, that seems to be the
finish. He has withdrawn from the window. What do you make of it,
Watson?"

"A cipher message, Holmes."

My companion gave a sudden chuckle of comprehension. "And not a very
obscure cipher, Watson," said he. "Why, of course, it is Italian! The A
means that it is addressed to a woman. 'Beware! Beware! Beware!' How's
that, Watson?

"I believe you have hit it."

"Not a doubt of it. It is a very urgent message, thrice repeated to
make it more so. But beware of what? Wait a bit, he is coming to the
window once more."

Again we saw the dim silhouette of a crouching man and the whisk of the
small flame across the window as the signals were renewed. They came
more rapidly than before—so rapid that it was hard to follow them.

"PERICOLO—pericolo—eh, what's that, Watson? 'Danger,' isn't it? Yes, by
Jove, it's a danger signal. There he goes again! PERI. Halloa, what on
earth—"

The light had suddenly gone out, the glimmering square of window had
disappeared, and the third floor formed a dark band round the lofty
building, with its tiers of shining casements. That last warning cry
had been suddenly cut short. How, and by whom? The same thought
occurred on the instant to us both. Holmes sprang up from where he
crouched by the window.

"This is serious, Watson," he cried. "There is some devilry going
forward! Why should such a message stop in such a way? I should put
Scotland Yard in touch with this business—and yet, it is too pressing
for us to leave."

"Shall I go for the police?"

"We must define the situation a little more clearly. It may bear some
more innocent interpretation. Come, Watson, let us go across ourselves
and see what we can make of it."



 PART II



As we walked rapidly down Howe Street I glanced back at the building
which we had left. There, dimly outlined at the top window, I could see
the shadow of a head, a woman's head, gazing tensely, rigidly, out into
the night, waiting with breathless suspense for the renewal of that
interrupted message. At the doorway of the Howe Street flats a man,
muffled in a cravat and greatcoat, was leaning against the railing. He
started as the hall-light fell upon our faces.

"Holmes!" he cried.

"Why, Gregson!" said my companion as he shook hands with the Scotland
Yard detective. "Journeys end with lovers' meetings. What brings you
here?"

"The same reasons that bring you, I expect," said Gregson. "How you got
on to it I can't imagine."

"Different threads, but leading up to the same tangle. I've been taking
the signals."

"Signals?"

"Yes, from that window. They broke off in the middle. We came over to
see the reason. But since it is safe in your hands I see no object in
continuing this business."

"Wait a bit!" cried Gregson eagerly. "I'll do you this justice, Mr.
Holmes, that I was never in a case yet that I didn't feel stronger for
having you on my side. There's only the one exit to these flats, so we
have him safe."

"Who is he?"

"Well, well, we score over you for once, Mr. Holmes. You must give us
best this time." He struck his stick sharply upon the ground, on which
a cabman, his whip in his hand, sauntered over from a four-wheeler
which stood on the far side of the street. "May I introduce you to Mr.
Sherlock Holmes?" he said to the cabman. "This is Mr. Leverton, of
Pinkerton's American Agency."

"The hero of the Long Island cave mystery?" said Holmes. "Sir, I am
pleased to meet you."

The American, a quiet, businesslike young man, with a clean-shaven,
hatchet face, flushed up at the words of commendation. "I am on the
trail of my life now, Mr. Holmes," said he. "If I can get Gorgiano—"

"What! Gorgiano of the Red Circle?"

"Oh, he has a European fame, has he? Well, we've learned all about him
in America. We KNOW he is at the bottom of fifty murders, and yet we
have nothing positive we can take him on. I tracked him over from New
York, and I've been close to him for a week in London, waiting some
excuse to get my hand on his collar. Mr. Gregson and I ran him to
ground in that big tenement house, and there's only one door, so he
can't slip us. There's three folk come out since he went in, but I'll
swear he wasn't one of them."

"Mr. Holmes talks of signals," said Gregson. "I expect, as usual, he
knows a good deal that we don't."

In a few clear words Holmes explained the situation as it had appeared
to us. The American struck his hands together with vexation.

"He's on to us!" he cried.

"Why do you think so?"

"Well, it figures out that way, does it not? Here he is, sending out
messages to an accomplice—there are several of his gang in London. Then
suddenly, just as by your own account he was telling them that there
was danger, he broke short off. What could it mean except that from the
window he had suddenly either caught sight of us in the street, or in
some way come to understand how close the danger was, and that he must
act right away if he was to avoid it? What do you suggest, Mr. Holmes?"

"That we go up at once and see for ourselves."

"But we have no warrant for his arrest."

"He is in unoccupied premises under suspicious circumstances," said
Gregson. "That is good enough for the moment. When we have him by the
heels we can see if New York can't help us to keep him. I'll take the
responsibility of arresting him now."

Our official detectives may blunder in the matter of intelligence, but
never in that of courage. Gregson climbed the stair to arrest this
desperate murderer with the same absolutely quiet and businesslike
bearing with which he would have ascended the official staircase of
Scotland Yard. The Pinkerton man had tried to push past him, but
Gregson had firmly elbowed him back. London dangers were the privilege
of the London force.

The door of the left-hand flat upon the third landing was standing
ajar. Gregson pushed it open. Within all was absolute silence and
darkness. I struck a match and lit the detective's lantern. As I did
so, and as the flicker steadied into a flame, we all gave a gasp of
surprise. On the deal boards of the carpetless floor there was outlined
a fresh track of blood. The red steps pointed towards us and led away
from an inner room, the door of which was closed. Gregson flung it open
and held his light full blaze in front of him, while we all peered
eagerly over his shoulders.

In the middle of the floor of the empty room was huddled the figure of
an enormous man, his clean-shaven, swarthy face grotesquely horrible in
its contortion and his head encircled by a ghastly crimson halo of
blood, lying in a broad wet circle upon the white woodwork. His knees
were drawn up, his hands thrown out in agony, and from the centre of
his broad, brown, upturned throat there projected the white haft of a
knife driven blade-deep into his body. Giant as he was, the man must
have gone down like a pole-axed ox before that terrific blow. Beside
his right hand a most formidable horn-handled, two-edged dagger lay
upon the floor, and near it a black kid glove.

"By George! it's Black Gorgiano himself!" cried the American detective.
"Someone has got ahead of us this time."

"Here is the candle in the window, Mr. Holmes," said Gregson. "Why,
whatever are you doing?"

Holmes had stepped across, had lit the candle, and was passing it
backward and forward across the window-panes. Then he peered into the
darkness, blew the candle out, and threw it on the floor.

"I rather think that will be helpful," said he. He came over and stood
in deep thought while the two professionals were examining the body.
"You say that three people came out from the flat while you were
waiting downstairs," said he at last. "Did you observe them closely?"

"Yes, I did."

"Was there a fellow about thirty, black-bearded, dark, of middle size?"

"Yes; he was the last to pass me."

"That is your man, I fancy. I can give you his description, and we have
a very excellent outline of his footmark. That should be enough for
you."

"Not much, Mr. Holmes, among the millions of London."

"Perhaps not. That is why I thought it best to summon this lady to your
aid."

We all turned round at the words. There, framed in the doorway, was a
tall and beautiful woman—the mysterious lodger of Bloomsbury. Slowly
she advanced, her face pale and drawn with a frightful apprehension,
her eyes fixed and staring, her terrified gaze riveted upon the dark
figure on the floor.

"You have killed him!" she muttered. "Oh, Dio mio, you have killed
him!" Then I heard a sudden sharp intake of her breath, and she sprang
into the air with a cry of joy. Round and round the room she danced,
her hands clapping, her dark eyes gleaming with delighted wonder, and a
thousand pretty Italian exclamations pouring from her lips. It was
terrible and amazing to see such a woman so convulsed with joy at such
a sight. Suddenly she stopped and gazed at us all with a questioning
stare.

"But you! You are police, are you not? You have killed Giuseppe
Gorgiano. Is it not so?"

"We are police, madam."

She looked round into the shadows of the room.

"But where, then, is Gennaro?" she asked. "He is my husband, Gennaro
Lucca. I am Emilia Lucca, and we are both from New York. Where is
Gennaro? He called me this moment from this window, and I ran with all
my speed."

"It was I who called," said Holmes.

"You! How could you call?"

"Your cipher was not difficult, madam. Your presence here was
desirable. I knew that I had only to flash 'Vieni' and you would surely
come."

The beautiful Italian looked with awe at my companion.

"I do not understand how you know these things," she said. "Giuseppe
Gorgiano—how did he—" She paused, and then suddenly her face lit up
with pride and delight. "Now I see it! My Gennaro! My splendid,
beautiful Gennaro, who has guarded me safe from all harm, he did it,
with his own strong hand he killed the monster! Oh, Gennaro, how
wonderful you are! What woman could ever be worthy of such a man?"

"Well, Mrs. Lucca," said the prosaic Gregson, laying his hand upon the
lady's sleeve with as little sentiment as if she were a Notting Hill
hooligan, "I am not very clear yet who you are or what you are; but
you've said enough to make it very clear that we shall want you at the
Yard."

"One moment, Gregson," said Holmes. "I rather fancy that this lady may
be as anxious to give us information as we can be to get it. You
understand, madam, that your husband will be arrested and tried for the
death of the man who lies before us? What you say may be used in
evidence. But if you think that he has acted from motives which are not
criminal, and which he would wish to have known, then you cannot serve
him better than by telling us the whole story."

"Now that Gorgiano is dead we fear nothing," said the lady. "He was a
devil and a monster, and there can be no judge in the world who would
punish my husband for having killed him."

"In that case," said Holmes, "my suggestion is that we lock this door,
leave things as we found them, go with this lady to her room, and form
our opinion after we have heard what it is that she has to say to us."

Half an hour later we were seated, all four, in the small sitting-room
of Signora Lucca, listening to her remarkable narrative of those
sinister events, the ending of which we had chanced to witness. She
spoke in rapid and fluent but very unconventional English, which, for
the sake of clearness, I will make grammatical.

"I was born in Posilippo, near Naples," said she, "and was the daughter
of Augusto Barelli, who was the chief lawyer and once the deputy of
that part. Gennaro was in my father's employment, and I came to love
him, as any woman must. He had neither money nor position—nothing but
his beauty and strength and energy—so my father forbade the match. We
fled together, were married at Bari, and sold my jewels to gain the
money which would take us to America. This was four years ago, and we
have been in New York ever since.

"Fortune was very good to us at first. Gennaro was able to do a service
to an Italian gentleman—he saved him from some ruffians in the place
called the Bowery, and so made a powerful friend. His name was Tito
Castalotte, and he was the senior partner of the great firm of
Castalotte and Zamba, who are the chief fruit importers of New York.
Signor Zamba is an invalid, and our new friend Castalotte has all power
within the firm, which employs more than three hundred men. He took my
husband into his employment, made him head of a department, and showed
his good-will towards him in every way. Signor Castalotte was a
bachelor, and I believe that he felt as if Gennaro was his son, and
both my husband and I loved him as if he were our father. We had taken
and furnished a little house in Brooklyn, and our whole future seemed
assured when that black cloud appeared which was soon to overspread our
sky.

"One night, when Gennaro returned from his work, he brought a
fellow-countryman back with him. His name was Gorgiano, and he had come
also from Posilippo. He was a huge man, as you can testify, for you
have looked upon his corpse. Not only was his body that of a giant but
everything about him was grotesque, gigantic, and terrifying. His voice
was like thunder in our little house. There was scarce room for the
whirl of his great arms as he talked. His thoughts, his emotions, his
passions, all were exaggerated and monstrous. He talked, or rather
roared, with such energy that others could but sit and listen, cowed
with the mighty stream of words. His eyes blazed at you and held you at
his mercy. He was a terrible and wonderful man. I thank God that he is
dead!

"He came again and again. Yet I was aware that Gennaro was no more
happy than I was in his presence. My poor husband would sit pale and
listless, listening to the endless raving upon politics and upon social
questions which made up our visitor's conversation. Gennaro said
nothing, but I, who knew him so well, could read in his face some
emotion which I had never seen there before. At first I thought that it
was dislike. And then, gradually, I understood that it was more than
dislike. It was fear—a deep, secret, shrinking fear. That night—the
night that I read his terror—I put my arms round him and I implored him
by his love for me and by all that he held dear to hold nothing from
me, and to tell me why this huge man overshadowed him so.

"He told me, and my own heart grew cold as ice as I listened. My poor
Gennaro, in his wild and fiery days, when all the world seemed against
him and his mind was driven half mad by the injustices of life, had
joined a Neapolitan society, the Red Circle, which was allied to the
old Carbonari. The oaths and secrets of this brotherhood were
frightful, but once within its rule no escape was possible. When we had
fled to America Gennaro thought that he had cast it all off forever.
What was his horror one evening to meet in the streets the very man who
had initiated him in Naples, the giant Gorgiano, a man who had earned
the name of 'Death' in the south of Italy, for he was red to the elbow
in murder! He had come to New York to avoid the Italian police, and he
had already planted a branch of this dreadful society in his new home.
All this Gennaro told me and showed me a summons which he had received
that very day, a Red Circle drawn upon the head of it telling him that
a lodge would be held upon a certain date, and that his presence at it
was required and ordered.

"That was bad enough, but worse was to come. I had noticed for some
time that when Gorgiano came to us, as he constantly did, in the
evening, he spoke much to me; and even when his words were to my
husband those terrible, glaring, wild-beast eyes of his were always
turned upon me. One night his secret came out. I had awakened what he
called 'love' within him—the love of a brute—a savage. Gennaro had not
yet returned when he came. He pushed his way in, seized me in his
mighty arms, hugged me in his bear's embrace, covered me with kisses,
and implored me to come away with him. I was struggling and screaming
when Gennaro entered and attacked him. He struck Gennaro senseless and
fled from the house which he was never more to enter. It was a deadly
enemy that we made that night.

"A few days later came the meeting. Gennaro returned from it with a
face which told me that something dreadful had occurred. It was worse
than we could have imagined possible. The funds of the society were
raised by blackmailing rich Italians and threatening them with violence
should they refuse the money. It seems that Castalotte, our dear friend
and benefactor, had been approached. He had refused to yield to
threats, and he had handed the notices to the police. It was resolved
now that such an example should be made of them as would prevent any
other victim from rebelling. At the meeting it was arranged that he and
his house should be blown up with dynamite. There was a drawing of lots
as to who should carry out the deed. Gennaro saw our enemy's cruel face
smiling at him as he dipped his hand in the bag. No doubt it had been
prearranged in some fashion, for it was the fatal disc with the Red
Circle upon it, the mandate for murder, which lay upon his palm. He was
to kill his best friend, or he was to expose himself and me to the
vengeance of his comrades. It was part of their fiendish system to
punish those whom they feared or hated by injuring not only their own
persons but those whom they loved, and it was the knowledge of this
which hung as a terror over my poor Gennaro's head and drove him nearly
crazy with apprehension.

"All that night we sat together, our arms round each other, each
strengthening each for the troubles that lay before us. The very next
evening had been fixed for the attempt. By midday my husband and I were
on our way to London, but not before he had given our benefactor full
warning of this danger, and had also left such information for the
police as would safeguard his life for the future.

"The rest, gentlemen, you know for yourselves. We were sure that our
enemies would be behind us like our own shadows. Gorgiano had his
private reasons for vengeance, but in any case we knew how ruthless,
cunning, and untiring he could be. Both Italy and America are full of
stories of his dreadful powers. If ever they were exerted it would be
now. My darling made use of the few clear days which our start had
given us in arranging for a refuge for me in such a fashion that no
possible danger could reach me. For his own part, he wished to be free
that he might communicate both with the American and with the Italian
police. I do not myself know where he lived, or how. All that I learned
was through the columns of a newspaper. But once as I looked through my
window, I saw two Italians watching the house, and I understood that in
some way Gorgiano had found our retreat. Finally Gennaro told me,
through the paper, that he would signal to me from a certain window,
but when the signals came they were nothing but warnings, which were
suddenly interrupted. It is very clear to me now that he knew Gorgiano
to be close upon him, and that, thank God! he was ready for him when he
came. And now, gentleman, I would ask you whether we have anything to
fear from the law, or whether any judge upon earth would condemn my
Gennaro for what he has done?"

"Well, Mr. Gregson," said the American, looking across at the official,
"I don't know what your British point of view may be, but I guess that
in New York this lady's husband will receive a pretty general vote of
thanks."

"She will have to come with me and see the chief," Gregson answered.
"If what she says is corroborated, I do not think she or her husband
has much to fear. But what I can't make head or tail of, Mr. Holmes, is
how on earth YOU got yourself mixed up in the matter."

"Education, Gregson, education. Still seeking knowledge at the old
university. Well, Watson, you have one more specimen of the tragic and
grotesque to add to your collection. By the way, it is not eight
o'clock, and a Wagner night at Covent Garden! If we hurry, we might be
in time for the second act."



The Disappearance of Lady Frances Carfax

"But why Turkish?" asked Mr. Sherlock Holmes, gazing fixedly at my
boots. I was reclining in a cane-backed chair at the moment, and my
protruded feet had attracted his ever-active attention.

"English," I answered in some surprise. "I got them at Latimer's, in
Oxford Street."

Holmes smiled with an expression of weary patience.

"The bath!" he said; "the bath! Why the relaxing and expensive Turkish
rather than the invigorating home-made article?"

"Because for the last few days I have been feeling rheumatic and old. A
Turkish bath is what we call an alterative in medicine—a fresh
starting-point, a cleanser of the system.

"By the way, Holmes," I added, "I have no doubt the connection between
my boots and a Turkish bath is a perfectly self-evident one to a
logical mind, and yet I should be obliged to you if you would indicate
it."

"The train of reasoning is not very obscure, Watson," said Holmes with
a mischievous twinkle. "It belongs to the same elementary class of
deduction which I should illustrate if I were to ask you who shared
your cab in your drive this morning."

"I don't admit that a fresh illustration is an explanation," said I
with some asperity.

"Bravo, Watson! A very dignified and logical remonstrance. Let me see,
what were the points? Take the last one first—the cab. You observe that
you have some splashes on the left sleeve and shoulder of your coat.
Had you sat in the centre of a hansom you would probably have had no
splashes, and if you had they would certainly have been symmetrical.
Therefore it is clear that you sat at the side. Therefore it is equally
clear that you had a companion."

"That is very evident."

"Absurdly commonplace, is it not?"

"But the boots and the bath?"

"Equally childish. You are in the habit of doing up your boots in a
certain way. I see them on this occasion fastened with an elaborate
double bow, which is not your usual method of tying them. You have,
therefore, had them off. Who has tied them? A bootmaker—or the boy at
the bath. It is unlikely that it is the bootmaker, since your boots are
nearly new. Well, what remains? The bath. Absurd, is it not? But, for
all that, the Turkish bath has served a purpose."

"What is that?"

"You say that you have had it because you need a change. Let me suggest
that you take one. How would Lausanne do, my dear Watson—first-class
tickets and all expenses paid on a princely scale?"

"Splendid! But why?"

Holmes leaned back in his armchair and took his notebook from his
pocket.

"One of the most dangerous classes in the world," said he, "is the
drifting and friendless woman. She is the most harmless and often the
most useful of mortals, but she is the inevitable inciter of crime in
others. She is helpless. She is migratory. She has sufficient means to
take her from country to country and from hotel to hotel. She is lost,
as often as not, in a maze of obscure pensions and boardinghouses. She
is a stray chicken in a world of foxes. When she is gobbled up she is
hardly missed. I much fear that some evil has come to the Lady Frances
Carfax."

I was relieved at this sudden descent from the general to the
particular. Holmes consulted his notes.

"Lady Frances," he continued, "is the sole survivor of the direct
family of the late Earl of Rufton. The estates went, as you may
remember, in the male line. She was left with limited means, but with
some very remarkable old Spanish jewellery of silver and curiously cut
diamonds to which she was fondly attached—too attached, for she refused
to leave them with her banker and always carried them about with her. A
rather pathetic figure, the Lady Frances, a beautiful woman, still in
fresh middle age, and yet, by a strange change, the last derelict of
what only twenty years ago was a goodly fleet."

"What has happened to her, then?"

"Ah, what has happened to the Lady Frances? Is she alive or dead? There
is our problem. She is a lady of precise habits, and for four years it
has been her invariable custom to write every second week to Miss
Dobney, her old governess, who has long retired and lives in
Camberwell. It is this Miss Dobney who has consulted me. Nearly five
weeks have passed without a word. The last letter was from the Hotel
National at Lausanne. Lady Frances seems to have left there and given
no address. The family are anxious, and as they are exceedingly wealthy
no sum will be spared if we can clear the matter up."

"Is Miss Dobney the only source of information? Surely she had other
correspondents?"

"There is one correspondent who is a sure draw, Watson. That is the
bank. Single ladies must live, and their passbooks are compressed
diaries. She banks at Silvester's. I have glanced over her account. The
last check but one paid her bill at Lausanne, but it was a large one
and probably left her with cash in hand. Only one check has been drawn
since."

"To whom, and where?"

"To Miss Marie Devine. There is nothing to show where the check was
drawn. It was cashed at the Credit Lyonnais at Montpellier less than
three weeks ago. The sum was fifty pounds."

"And who is Miss Marie Devine?"

"That also I have been able to discover. Miss Marie Devine was the maid
of Lady Frances Carfax. Why she should have paid her this check we have
not yet determined. I have no doubt, however, that your researches will
soon clear the matter up."

"MY researches!"

"Hence the health-giving expedition to Lausanne. You know that I cannot
possibly leave London while old Abrahams is in such mortal terror of
his life. Besides, on general principles it is best that I should not
leave the country. Scotland Yard feels lonely without me, and it causes
an unhealthy excitement among the criminal classes. Go, then, my dear
Watson, and if my humble counsel can ever be valued at so extravagant a
rate as two pence a word, it waits your disposal night and day at the
end of the Continental wire."

Two days later found me at the Hotel National at Lausanne, where I
received every courtesy at the hands of M. Moser, the well-known
manager. Lady Frances, as he informed me, had stayed there for several
weeks. She had been much liked by all who met her. Her age was not more
than forty. She was still handsome and bore every sign of having in her
youth been a very lovely woman. M. Moser knew nothing of any valuable
jewellery, but it had been remarked by the servants that the heavy
trunk in the lady's bedroom was always scrupulously locked. Marie
Devine, the maid, was as popular as her mistress. She was actually
engaged to one of the head waiters in the hotel, and there was no
difficulty in getting her address. It was 11 Rue de Trajan,
Montpellier. All this I jotted down and felt that Holmes himself could
not have been more adroit in collecting his facts.

Only one corner still remained in the shadow. No light which I
possessed could clear up the cause for the lady's sudden departure. She
was very happy at Lausanne. There was every reason to believe that she
intended to remain for the season in her luxurious rooms overlooking
the lake. And yet she had left at a single day's notice, which involved
her in the useless payment of a week's rent. Only Jules Vibart, the
lover of the maid, had any suggestion to offer. He connected the sudden
departure with the visit to the hotel a day or two before of a tall,
dark, bearded man. "Un sauvage—un veritable sauvage!" cried Jules
Vibart. The man had rooms somewhere in the town. He had been seen
talking earnestly to Madame on the promenade by the lake. Then he had
called. She had refused to see him. He was English, but of his name
there was no record. Madame had left the place immediately afterwards.
Jules Vibart, and, what was of more importance, Jules Vibart's
sweetheart, thought that this call and the departure were cause and
effect. Only one thing Jules would not discuss. That was the reason why
Marie had left her mistress. Of that he could or would say nothing. If
I wished to know, I must go to Montpellier and ask her.

So ended the first chapter of my inquiry. The second was devoted to the
place which Lady Frances Carfax had sought when she left Lausanne.
Concerning this there had been some secrecy, which confirmed the idea
that she had gone with the intention of throwing someone off her track.
Otherwise why should not her luggage have been openly labelled for
Baden? Both she and it reached the Rhenish spa by some circuitous
route. This much I gathered from the manager of Cook's local office. So
to Baden I went, after dispatching to Holmes an account of all my
proceedings and receiving in reply a telegram of half-humorous
commendation.

At Baden the track was not difficult to follow. Lady Frances had stayed
at the Englischer Hof for a fortnight. While there she had made the
acquaintance of a Dr. Shlessinger and his wife, a missionary from South
America. Like most lonely ladies, Lady Frances found her comfort and
occupation in religion. Dr. Shlessinger's remarkable personality, his
whole hearted devotion, and the fact that he was recovering from a
disease contracted in the exercise of his apostolic duties affected her
deeply. She had helped Mrs. Shlessinger in the nursing of the
convalescent saint. He spent his day, as the manager described it to
me, upon a lounge-chair on the veranda, with an attendant lady upon
either side of him. He was preparing a map of the Holy Land, with
special reference to the kingdom of the Midianites, upon which he was
writing a monograph. Finally, having improved much in health, he and
his wife had returned to London, and Lady Frances had started thither
in their company. This was just three weeks before, and the manager had
heard nothing since. As to the maid, Marie, she had gone off some days
beforehand in floods of tears, after informing the other maids that she
was leaving service forever. Dr. Shlessinger had paid the bill of the
whole party before his departure.

"By the way," said the landlord in conclusion, "you are not the only
friend of Lady Frances Carfax who is inquiring after her just now. Only
a week or so ago we had a man here upon the same errand."

"Did he give a name?" I asked.

"None; but he was an Englishman, though of an unusual type."

"A savage?" said I, linking my facts after the fashion of my
illustrious friend.

"Exactly. That describes him very well. He is a bulky, bearded,
sunburned fellow, who looks as if he would be more at home in a
farmers' inn than in a fashionable hotel. A hard, fierce man, I should
think, and one whom I should be sorry to offend."

Already the mystery began to define itself, as figures grow clearer
with the lifting of a fog. Here was this good and pious lady pursued
from place to place by a sinister and unrelenting figure. She feared
him, or she would not have fled from Lausanne. He had still followed.
Sooner or later he would overtake her. Had he already overtaken her?
Was THAT the secret of her continued silence? Could the good people who
were her companions not screen her from his violence or his blackmail?
What horrible purpose, what deep design, lay behind this long pursuit?
There was the problem which I had to solve.

To Holmes I wrote showing how rapidly and surely I had got down to the
roots of the matter. In reply I had a telegram asking for a description
of Dr. Shlessinger's left ear. Holmes's ideas of humour are strange and
occasionally offensive, so I took no notice of his ill-timed
jest—indeed, I had already reached Montpellier in my pursuit of the
maid, Marie, before his message came.

I had no difficulty in finding the ex-servant and in learning all that
she could tell me. She was a devoted creature, who had only left her
mistress because she was sure that she was in good hands, and because
her own approaching marriage made a separation inevitable in any case.
Her mistress had, as she confessed with distress, shown some
irritability of temper towards her during their stay in Baden, and had
even questioned her once as if she had suspicions of her honesty, and
this had made the parting easier than it would otherwise have been.
Lady Frances had given her fifty pounds as a wedding-present. Like me,
Marie viewed with deep distrust the stranger who had driven her
mistress from Lausanne. With her own eyes she had seen him seize the
lady's wrist with great violence on the public promenade by the lake.
He was a fierce and terrible man. She believed that it was out of dread
of him that Lady Frances had accepted the escort of the Shlessingers to
London. She had never spoken to Marie about it, but many little signs
had convinced the maid that her mistress lived in a state of continual
nervous apprehension. So far she had got in her narrative, when
suddenly she sprang from her chair and her face was convulsed with
surprise and fear. "See!" she cried. "The miscreant follows still!
There is the very man of whom I speak."

Through the open sitting-room window I saw a huge, swarthy man with a
bristling black beard walking slowly down the centre of the street and
staring eagerly at the numbers of the houses. It was clear that, like
myself, he was on the track of the maid. Acting upon the impulse of the
moment, I rushed out and accosted him.

"You are an Englishman," I said.

"What if I am?" he asked with a most villainous scowl.

"May I ask what your name is?"

"No, you may not," said he with decision.

The situation was awkward, but the most direct way is often the best.

"Where is the Lady Frances Carfax?" I asked.

He stared at me with amazement.

"What have you done with her? Why have you pursued her? I insist upon
an answer!" said I.

The fellow gave a bellow of anger and sprang upon me like a tiger. I
have held my own in many a struggle, but the man had a grip of iron and
the fury of a fiend. His hand was on my throat and my senses were
nearly gone before an unshaven French ouvrier in a blue blouse darted
out from a cabaret opposite, with a cudgel in his hand, and struck my
assailant a sharp crack over the forearm, which made him leave go his
hold. He stood for an instant fuming with rage and uncertain whether he
should not renew his attack. Then, with a snarl of anger, he left me
and entered the cottage from which I had just come. I turned to thank
my preserver, who stood beside me in the roadway.

"Well, Watson," said he, "a very pretty hash you have made of it! I
rather think you had better come back with me to London by the night
express."

An hour afterwards, Sherlock Holmes, in his usual garb and style, was
seated in my private room at the hotel. His explanation of his sudden
and opportune appearance was simplicity itself, for, finding that he
could get away from London, he determined to head me off at the next
obvious point of my travels. In the disguise of a workingman he had sat
in the cabaret waiting for my appearance.

"And a singularly consistent investigation you have made, my dear
Watson," said he. "I cannot at the moment recall any possible blunder
which you have omitted. The total effect of your proceeding has been to
give the alarm everywhere and yet to discover nothing."

"Perhaps you would have done no better," I answered bitterly.

"There is no 'perhaps' about it. I HAVE done better. Here is the Hon.
Philip Green, who is a fellow-lodger with you in this hotel, and we may
find him the starting-point for a more successful investigation."

A card had come up on a salver, and it was followed by the same bearded
ruffian who had attacked me in the street. He started when he saw me.

"What is this, Mr. Holmes?" he asked. "I had your note and I have come.
But what has this man to do with the matter?"

"This is my old friend and associate, Dr. Watson, who is helping us in
this affair."

The stranger held out a huge, sunburned hand, with a few words of
apology.

"I hope I didn't harm you. When you accused me of hurting her I lost my
grip of myself. Indeed, I'm not responsible in these days. My nerves
are like live wires. But this situation is beyond me. What I want to
know, in the first place, Mr. Holmes, is, how in the world you came to
hear of my existence at all."

"I am in touch with Miss Dobney, Lady Frances's governess."

"Old Susan Dobney with the mob cap! I remember her well."

"And she remembers you. It was in the days before—before you found it
better to go to South Africa."

"Ah, I see you know my whole story. I need hide nothing from you. I
swear to you, Mr. Holmes, that there never was in this world a man who
loved a woman with a more wholehearted love than I had for Frances. I
was a wild youngster, I know—not worse than others of my class. But her
mind was pure as snow. She could not bear a shadow of coarseness. So,
when she came to hear of things that I had done, she would have no more
to say to me. And yet she loved me—that is the wonder of it!—loved me
well enough to remain single all her sainted days just for my sake
alone. When the years had passed and I had made my money at Barberton I
thought perhaps I could seek her out and soften her. I had heard that
she was still unmarried, I found her at Lausanne and tried all I knew.
She weakened, I think, but her will was strong, and when next I called
she had left the town. I traced her to Baden, and then after a time
heard that her maid was here. I'm a rough fellow, fresh from a rough
life, and when Dr. Watson spoke to me as he did I lost hold of myself
for a moment. But for God's sake tell me what has become of the Lady
Frances."

"That is for us to find out," said Sherlock Holmes with peculiar
gravity. "What is your London address, Mr. Green?"

"The Langham Hotel will find me."

"Then may I recommend that you return there and be on hand in case I
should want you? I have no desire to encourage false hopes, but you may
rest assured that all that can be done will be done for the safety of
Lady Frances. I can say no more for the instant. I will leave you this
card so that you may be able to keep in touch with us. Now, Watson, if
you will pack your bag I will cable to Mrs. Hudson to make one of her
best efforts for two hungry travellers at 7:30 to-morrow."



A telegram was awaiting us when we reached our Baker Street rooms,
which Holmes read with an exclamation of interest and threw across to
me. "Jagged or torn," was the message, and the place of origin, Baden.

"What is this?" I asked.

"It is everything," Holmes answered. "You may remember my seemingly
irrelevant question as to this clerical gentleman's left ear. You did
not answer it."

"I had left Baden and could not inquire."

"Exactly. For this reason I sent a duplicate to the manager of the
Englischer Hof, whose answer lies here."

"What does it show?"

"It shows, my dear Watson, that we are dealing with an exceptionally
astute and dangerous man. The Rev. Dr. Shlessinger, missionary from
South America, is none other than Holy Peters, one of the most
unscrupulous rascals that Australia has ever evolved—and for a young
country it has turned out some very finished types. His particular
specialty is the beguiling of lonely ladies by playing upon their
religious feelings, and his so-called wife, an Englishwoman named
Fraser, is a worthy helpmate. The nature of his tactics suggested his
identity to me, and this physical peculiarity—he was badly bitten in a
saloon-fight at Adelaide in '89—confirmed my suspicion. This poor lady
is in the hands of a most infernal couple, who will stick at nothing,
Watson. That she is already dead is a very likely supposition. If not,
she is undoubtedly in some sort of confinement and unable to write to
Miss Dobney or her other friends. It is always possible that she never
reached London, or that she has passed through it, but the former is
improbable, as, with their system of registration, it is not easy for
foreigners to play tricks with the Continental police; and the latter
is also unlikely, as these rouges could not hope to find any other
place where it would be as easy to keep a person under restraint. All
my instincts tell me that she is in London, but as we have at present
no possible means of telling where, we can only take the obvious steps,
eat our dinner, and possess our souls in patience. Later in the evening
I will stroll down and have a word with friend Lestrade at Scotland
Yard."

But neither the official police nor Holmes's own small but very
efficient organization sufficed to clear away the mystery. Amid the
crowded millions of London the three persons we sought were as
completely obliterated as if they had never lived. Advertisements were
tried, and failed. Clues were followed, and led to nothing. Every
criminal resort which Shlessinger might frequent was drawn in vain. His
old associates were watched, but they kept clear of him. And then
suddenly, after a week of helpless suspense there came a flash of
light. A silver-and-brilliant pendant of old Spanish design had been
pawned at Bovington's, in Westminster Road. The pawner was a large,
clean-shaven man of clerical appearance. His name and address were
demonstrably false. The ear had escaped notice, but the description was
surely that of Shlessinger.

Three times had our bearded friend from the Langham called for news—the
third time within an hour of this fresh development. His clothes were
getting looser on his great body. He seemed to be wilting away in his
anxiety. "If you will only give me something to do!" was his constant
wail. At last Holmes could oblige him.

"He has begun to pawn the jewels. We should get him now."

"But does this mean that any harm has befallen the Lady Frances?"

Holmes shook his head very gravely.

"Supposing that they have held her prisoner up to now, it is clear that
they cannot let her loose without their own destruction. We must
prepare for the worst."

"What can I do?"

"These people do not know you by sight?"

"No."

"It is possible that he will go to some other pawnbroker in the future.
In that case, we must begin again. On the other hand, he has had a fair
price and no questions asked, so if he is in need of ready-money he
will probably come back to Bovington's. I will give you a note to them,
and they will let you wait in the shop. If the fellow comes you will
follow him home. But no indiscretion, and, above all, no violence. I
put you on your honour that you will take no step without my knowledge
and consent."

For two days the Hon. Philip Green (he was, I may mention, the son of
the famous admiral of that name who commanded the Sea of Azof fleet in
the Crimean War) brought us no news. On the evening of the third he
rushed into our sitting-room, pale, trembling, with every muscle of his
powerful frame quivering with excitement.

"We have him! We have him!" he cried.

He was incoherent in his agitation. Holmes soothed him with a few words
and thrust him into an armchair.

"Come, now, give us the order of events," said he.

"She came only an hour ago. It was the wife, this time, but the pendant
she brought was the fellow of the other. She is a tall, pale woman,
with ferret eyes."

"That is the lady," said Holmes.

"She left the office and I followed her. She walked up the Kennington
Road, and I kept behind her. Presently she went into a shop. Mr.
Holmes, it was an undertaker's."

My companion started. "Well?" he asked in that vibrant voice which told
of the fiery soul behind the cold gray face.

"She was talking to the woman behind the counter. I entered as well.
'It is late,' I heard her say, or words to that effect. The woman was
excusing herself. 'It should be there before now,' she answered. 'It
took longer, being out of the ordinary.' They both stopped and looked
at me, so I asked some questions and then left the shop."

"You did excellently well. What happened next?"

"The woman came out, but I had hid myself in a doorway. Her suspicions
had been aroused, I think, for she looked round her. Then she called a
cab and got in. I was lucky enough to get another and so to follow her.
She got down at last at No. 36, Poultney Square, Brixton. I drove past,
left my cab at the corner of the square, and watched the house."

"Did you see anyone?"

"The windows were all in darkness save one on the lower floor. The
blind was down, and I could not see in. I was standing there, wondering
what I should do next, when a covered van drove up with two men in it.
They descended, took something out of the van, and carried it up the
steps to the hall door. Mr. Holmes, it was a coffin."

"Ah!"

"For an instant I was on the point of rushing in. The door had been
opened to admit the men and their burden. It was the woman who had
opened it. But as I stood there she caught a glimpse of me, and I think
that she recognized me. I saw her start, and she hastily closed the
door. I remembered my promise to you, and here I am."

"You have done excellent work," said Holmes, scribbling a few words
upon a half-sheet of paper. "We can do nothing legal without a warrant,
and you can serve the cause best by taking this note down to the
authorities and getting one. There may be some difficulty, but I should
think that the sale of the jewellery should be sufficient. Lestrade
will see to all details."

"But they may murder her in the meanwhile. What could the coffin mean,
and for whom could it be but for her?"

"We will do all that can be done, Mr. Green. Not a moment will be lost.
Leave it in our hands. Now Watson," he added as our client hurried
away, "he will set the regular forces on the move. We are, as usual,
the irregulars, and we must take our own line of action. The situation
strikes me as so desperate that the most extreme measures are
justified. Not a moment is to be lost in getting to Poultney Square.

"Let us try to reconstruct the situation," said he as we drove swiftly
past the Houses of Parliament and over Westminster Bridge. "These
villains have coaxed this unhappy lady to London, after first
alienating her from her faithful maid. If she has written any letters
they have been intercepted. Through some confederate they have engaged
a furnished house. Once inside it, they have made her a prisoner, and
they have become possessed of the valuable jewellery which has been
their object from the first. Already they have begun to sell part of
it, which seems safe enough to them, since they have no reason to think
that anyone is interested in the lady's fate. When she is released she
will, of course, denounce them. Therefore, she must not be released.
But they cannot keep her under lock and key forever. So murder is their
only solution."

"That seems very clear."

"Now we will take another line of reasoning. When you follow two
separate chains of thought, Watson, you will find some point of
intersection which should approximate to the truth. We will start now,
not from the lady but from the coffin and argue backward. That incident
proves, I fear, beyond all doubt that the lady is dead. It points also
to an orthodox burial with proper accompaniment of medical certificate
and official sanction. Had the lady been obviously murdered, they would
have buried her in a hole in the back garden. But here all is open and
regular. What does this mean? Surely that they have done her to death
in some way which has deceived the doctor and simulated a natural
end—poisoning, perhaps. And yet how strange that they should ever let a
doctor approach her unless he were a confederate, which is hardly a
credible proposition."

"Could they have forged a medical certificate?"

"Dangerous, Watson, very dangerous. No, I hardly see them doing that.
Pull up, cabby! This is evidently the undertaker's, for we have just
passed the pawnbroker's. Would you go in, Watson? Your appearance
inspires confidence. Ask what hour the Poultney Square funeral takes
place to-morrow."

The woman in the shop answered me without hesitation that it was to be
at eight o'clock in the morning. "You see, Watson, no mystery;
everything above-board! In some way the legal forms have undoubtedly
been complied with, and they think that they have little to fear. Well,
there's nothing for it now but a direct frontal attack. Are you armed?"

"My stick!"

"Well, well, we shall be strong enough. 'Thrice is he armed who hath
his quarrel just.' We simply can't afford to wait for the police or to
keep within the four corners of the law. You can drive off, cabby. Now,
Watson, we'll just take our luck together, as we have occasionally in
the past."

He had rung loudly at the door of a great dark house in the centre of
Poultney Square. It was opened immediately, and the figure of a tall
woman was outlined against the dim-lit hall.

"Well, what do you want?" she asked sharply, peering at us through the
darkness.

"I want to speak to Dr. Shlessinger," said Holmes.

"There is no such person here," she answered, and tried to close the
door, but Holmes had jammed it with his foot.

"Well, I want to see the man who lives here, whatever he may call
himself," said Holmes firmly.

She hesitated. Then she threw open the door. "Well, come in!" said she.
"My husband is not afraid to face any man in the world." She closed the
door behind us and showed us into a sitting-room on the right side of
the hall, turning up the gas as she left us. "Mr. Peters will be with
you in an instant," she said.

Her words were literally true, for we had hardly time to look around
the dusty and moth-eaten apartment in which we found ourselves before
the door opened and a big, clean-shaven bald-headed man stepped lightly
into the room. He had a large red face, with pendulous cheeks, and a
general air of superficial benevolence which was marred by a cruel,
vicious mouth.

"There is surely some mistake here, gentlemen," he said in an unctuous,
make-everything-easy voice. "I fancy that you have been misdirected.
Possibly if you tried farther down the street—"

"That will do; we have no time to waste," said my companion firmly.
"You are Henry Peters, of Adelaide, late the Rev. Dr. Shlessinger, of
Baden and South America. I am as sure of that as that my own name is
Sherlock Holmes."

Peters, as I will now call him, started and stared hard at his
formidable pursuer. "I guess your name does not frighten me, Mr.
Holmes," said he coolly. "When a man's conscience is easy you can't
rattle him. What is your business in my house?"

"I want to know what you have done with the Lady Frances Carfax, whom
you brought away with you from Baden."

"I'd be very glad if you could tell me where that lady may be," Peters
answered coolly. "I've a bill against her for nearly a hundred pounds,
and nothing to show for it but a couple of trumpery pendants that the
dealer would hardly look at. She attached herself to Mrs. Peters and me
at Baden—it is a fact that I was using another name at the time—and she
stuck on to us until we came to London. I paid her bill and her ticket.
Once in London, she gave us the slip, and, as I say, left these
out-of-date jewels to pay her bills. You find her, Mr. Holmes, and I'm
your debtor."

"I MEAN to find her," said Sherlock Holmes. "I'm going through this
house till I do find her."

"Where is your warrant?"

Holmes half drew a revolver from his pocket. "This will have to serve
till a better one comes."

"Why, you're a common burglar."

"So you might describe me," said Holmes cheerfully. "My companion is
also a dangerous ruffian. And together we are going through your
house."

Our opponent opened the door.

"Fetch a policeman, Annie!" said he. There was a whisk of feminine
skirts down the passage, and the hall door was opened and shut.

"Our time is limited, Watson," said Holmes. "If you try to stop us,
Peters, you will most certainly get hurt. Where is that coffin which
was brought into your house?"

"What do you want with the coffin? It is in use. There is a body in
it."

"I must see the body."

"Never with my consent."

"Then without it." With a quick movement Holmes pushed the fellow to
one side and passed into the hall. A door half opened stood immediately
before us. We entered. It was the dining-room. On the table, under a
half-lit chandelier, the coffin was lying. Holmes turned up the gas and
raised the lid. Deep down in the recesses of the coffin lay an
emaciated figure. The glare from the lights above beat down upon an
aged and withered face. By no possible process of cruelty, starvation,
or disease could this worn-out wreck be the still beautiful Lady
Frances. Holmes's face showed his amazement, and also his relief.

"Thank God!" he muttered. "It's someone else."

"Ah, you've blundered badly for once, Mr. Sherlock Holmes," said
Peters, who had followed us into the room.

"Who is the dead woman?"

"Well, if you really must know, she is an old nurse of my wife's, Rose
Spender by name, whom we found in the Brixton Workhouse Infirmary. We
brought her round here, called in Dr. Horsom, of 13 Firbank Villas—mind
you take the address, Mr. Holmes—and had her carefully tended, as
Christian folk should. On the third day she died—certificate says
senile decay—but that's only the doctor's opinion, and of course you
know better. We ordered her funeral to be carried out by Stimson and
Co., of the Kennington Road, who will bury her at eight o'clock
to-morrow morning. Can you pick any hole in that, Mr. Holmes? You've
made a silly blunder, and you may as well own up to it. I'd give
something for a photograph of your gaping, staring face when you pulled
aside that lid expecting to see the Lady Frances Carfax and only found
a poor old woman of ninety."

Holmes's expression was as impassive as ever under the jeers of his
antagonist, but his clenched hands betrayed his acute annoyance.

"I am going through your house," said he.

"Are you, though!" cried Peters as a woman's voice and heavy steps
sounded in the passage. "We'll soon see about that. This way, officers,
if you please. These men have forced their way into my house, and I
cannot get rid of them. Help me to put them out."

A sergeant and a constable stood in the doorway. Holmes drew his card
from his case.

"This is my name and address. This is my friend, Dr. Watson."

"Bless you, sir, we know you very well," said the sergeant, "but you
can't stay here without a warrant."

"Of course not. I quite understand that."

"Arrest him!" cried Peters.

"We know where to lay our hands on this gentleman if he is wanted,"
said the sergeant majestically, "but you'll have to go, Mr. Holmes."

"Yes, Watson, we shall have to go."

A minute later we were in the street once more. Holmes was as cool as
ever, but I was hot with anger and humiliation. The sergeant had
followed us.

"Sorry, Mr. Holmes, but that's the law."

"Exactly, Sergeant, you could not do otherwise."

"I expect there was good reason for your presence there. If there is
anything I can do—"

"It's a missing lady, Sergeant, and we think she is in that house. I
expect a warrant presently."

"Then I'll keep my eye on the parties, Mr. Holmes. If anything comes
along, I will surely let you know."

It was only nine o'clock, and we were off full cry upon the trail at
once. First we drove to Brixton Workhouse Infirmary, where we found
that it was indeed the truth that a charitable couple had called some
days before, that they had claimed an imbecile old woman as a former
servant, and that they had obtained permission to take her away with
them. No surprise was expressed at the news that she had since died.

The doctor was our next goal. He had been called in, had found the
woman dying of pure senility, had actually seen her pass away, and had
signed the certificate in due form. "I assure you that everything was
perfectly normal and there was no room for foul play in the matter,"
said he. Nothing in the house had struck him as suspicious save that
for people of their class it was remarkable that they should have no
servant. So far and no further went the doctor.

Finally we found our way to Scotland Yard. There had been difficulties
of procedure in regard to the warrant. Some delay was inevitable. The
magistrate's signature might not be obtained until next morning. If
Holmes would call about nine he could go down with Lestrade and see it
acted upon. So ended the day, save that near midnight our friend, the
sergeant, called to say that he had seen flickering lights here and
there in the windows of the great dark house, but that no one had left
it and none had entered. We could but pray for patience and wait for
the morrow.

Sherlock Holmes was too irritable for conversation and too restless for
sleep. I left him smoking hard, with his heavy, dark brows knotted
together, and his long, nervous fingers tapping upon the arms of his
chair, as he turned over in his mind every possible solution of the
mystery. Several times in the course of the night I heard him prowling
about the house. Finally, just after I had been called in the morning,
he rushed into my room. He was in his dressing-gown, but his pale,
hollow-eyed face told me that his night had been a sleepless one.

"What time was the funeral? Eight, was it not?" he asked eagerly.
"Well, it is 7:20 now. Good heavens, Watson, what has become of any
brains that God has given me? Quick, man, quick! It's life or death—a
hundred chances on death to one on life. I'll never forgive myself,
never, if we are too late!"

Five minutes had not passed before we were flying in a hansom down
Baker Street. But even so it was twenty-five to eight as we passed Big
Ben, and eight struck as we tore down the Brixton Road. But others were
late as well as we. Ten minutes after the hour the hearse was still
standing at the door of the house, and even as our foaming horse came
to a halt the coffin, supported by three men, appeared on the
threshold. Holmes darted forward and barred their way.

"Take it back!" he cried, laying his hand on the breast of the
foremost. "Take it back this instant!"

"What the devil do you mean? Once again I ask you, where is your
warrant?" shouted the furious Peters, his big red face glaring over the
farther end of the coffin.

"The warrant is on its way. The coffin shall remain in the house until
it comes."

The authority in Holmes's voice had its effect upon the bearers. Peters
had suddenly vanished into the house, and they obeyed these new orders.
"Quick, Watson, quick! Here is a screw-driver!" he shouted as the
coffin was replaced upon the table. "Here's one for you, my man! A
sovereign if the lid comes off in a minute! Ask no questions—work away!
That's good! Another! And another! Now pull all together! It's giving!
It's giving! Ah, that does it at last."

With a united effort we tore off the coffin-lid. As we did so there
came from the inside a stupefying and overpowering smell of chloroform.
A body lay within, its head all wreathed in cotton-wool, which had been
soaked in the narcotic. Holmes plucked it off and disclosed the
statuesque face of a handsome and spiritual woman of middle age. In an
instant he had passed his arm round the figure and raised her to a
sitting position.

"Is she gone, Watson? Is there a spark left? Surely we are not too
late!"

For half an hour it seemed that we were. What with actual suffocation,
and what with the poisonous fumes of the chloroform, the Lady Frances
seemed to have passed the last point of recall. And then, at last, with
artificial respiration, with injected ether, and with every device that
science could suggest, some flutter of life, some quiver of the
eyelids, some dimming of a mirror, spoke of the slowly returning life.
A cab had driven up, and Holmes, parting the blind, looked out at it.
"Here is Lestrade with his warrant," said he. "He will find that his
birds have flown. And here," he added as a heavy step hurried along the
passage, "is someone who has a better right to nurse this lady than we
have. Good morning, Mr. Green; I think that the sooner we can move the
Lady Frances the better. Meanwhile, the funeral may proceed, and the
poor old woman who still lies in that coffin may go to her last
resting-place alone."

"Should you care to add the case to your annals, my dear Watson," said
Holmes that evening, "it can only be as an example of that temporary
eclipse to which even the best-balanced mind may be exposed. Such slips
are common to all mortals, and the greatest is he who can recognize and
repair them. To this modified credit I may, perhaps, make some claim.
My night was haunted by the thought that somewhere a clue, a strange
sentence, a curious observation, had come under my notice and had been
too easily dismissed. Then, suddenly, in the gray of the morning, the
words came back to me. It was the remark of the undertaker's wife, as
reported by Philip Green. She had said, 'It should be there before now.
It took longer, being out of the ordinary.' It was the coffin of which
she spoke. It had been out of the ordinary. That could only mean that
it had been made to some special measurement. But why? Why? Then in an
instant I remembered the deep sides, and the little wasted figure at
the bottom. Why so large a coffin for so small a body? To leave room
for another body. Both would be buried under the one certificate. It
had all been so clear, if only my own sight had not been dimmed. At
eight the Lady Frances would be buried. Our one chance was to stop the
coffin before it left the house.

"It was a desperate chance that we might find her alive, but it WAS a
chance, as the result showed. These people had never, to my knowledge,
done a murder. They might shrink from actual violence at the last. The
could bury her with no sign of how she met her end, and even if she
were exhumed there was a chance for them. I hoped that such
considerations might prevail with them. You can reconstruct the scene
well enough. You saw the horrible den upstairs, where the poor lady had
been kept so long. They rushed in and overpowered her with their
chloroform, carried her down, poured more into the coffin to insure
against her waking, and then screwed down the lid. A clever device,
Watson. It is new to me in the annals of crime. If our ex-missionary
friends escape the clutches of Lestrade, I shall expect to hear of some
brilliant incidents in their future career."



The Adventure of the Dying Detective

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 alive."

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
details.

"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
room."

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
corruption?"

"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?"

"Yes."

"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
master.

"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
childhood.

"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
Holmes—"

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
Eastern?"

"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?"

"Occasionally."

"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
knowledge."

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
began?"

"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 remember?"

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

"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
tone.

"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
appeared.

"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
concluded.

"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
infection?"

"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."



His Last Bow: The War Service of Sherlock Holmes

It was nine o'clock at night upon the second of August—the most
terrible August in the history of the world. One might have thought
already that God's curse hung heavy over a degenerate world, for there
was an awesome hush and a feeling of vague expectancy in the sultry and
stagnant air. The sun had long set, but one blood-red gash like an open
wound lay low in the distant west. Above, the stars were shining
brightly, and below, the lights of the shipping glimmered in the bay.
The two famous Germans stood beside the stone parapet of the garden
walk, with the long, low, heavily gabled house behind them, and they
looked down upon the broad sweep of the beach at the foot of the great
chalk cliff in which Von Bork, like some wandering eagle, had perched
himself four years before. They stood with their heads close together,
talking in low, confidential tones. From below the two glowing ends of
their cigars might have been the smouldering eyes of some malignant
fiend looking down in the darkness.

A remarkable man this Von Bork—a man who could hardly be matched among
all the devoted agents of the Kaiser. It was his talents which had
first recommended him for the English mission, the most important
mission of all, but since he had taken it over those talents had become
more and more manifest to the half-dozen people in the world who were
really in touch with the truth. One of these was his present companion,
Baron Von Herling, the chief secretary of the legation, whose huge
100-horse-power Benz car was blocking the country lane as it waited to
waft its owner back to London.

"So far as I can judge the trend of events, you will probably be back
in Berlin within the week," the secretary was saying. "When you get
there, my dear Von Bork, I think you will be surprised at the welcome
you will receive. I happen to know what is thought in the highest
quarters of your work in this country." He was a huge man, the
secretary, deep, broad, and tall, with a slow, heavy fashion of speech
which had been his main asset in his political career.

Von Bork laughed.

"They are not very hard to deceive," he remarked. "A more docile,
simple folk could not be imagined."

"I don't know about that," said the other thoughtfully. "They have
strange limits and one must learn to observe them. It is that surface
simplicity of theirs which makes a trap for the stranger. One's first
impression is that they are entirely soft. Then one comes suddenly upon
something very hard, and you know that you have reached the limit and
must adapt yourself to the fact. They have, for example, their insular
conventions which simply MUST be observed."

"Meaning 'good form' and that sort of thing?" Von Bork sighed as one
who had suffered much.

"Meaning British prejudice in all its queer manifestations. As an
example I may quote one of my own worst blunders—I can afford to talk
of my blunders, for you know my work well enough to be aware of my
successes. It was on my first arrival. I was invited to a week-end
gathering at the country house of a cabinet minister. The conversation
was amazingly indiscreet."

Von Bork nodded. "I've been there," said he dryly.

"Exactly. Well, I naturally sent a resume of the information to Berlin.
Unfortunately our good chancellor is a little heavy-handed in these
matters, and he transmitted a remark which showed that he was aware of
what had been said. This, of course, took the trail straight up to me.
You've no idea the harm that it did me. There was nothing soft about
our British hosts on that occasion, I can assure you. I was two years
living it down. Now you, with this sporting pose of yours—"

"No, no, don't call it a pose. A pose is an artificial thing. This is
quite natural. I am a born sportsman. I enjoy it."

"Well, that makes it the more effective. You yacht against them, you
hunt with them, you play polo, you match them in every game, your
four-in-hand takes the prize at Olympia. I have even heard that you go
the length of boxing with the young officers. What is the result?
Nobody takes you seriously. You are a 'good old sport' 'quite a decent
fellow for a German,' a hard-drinking, night-club, knock-about-town,
devil-may-care young fellow. And all the time this quiet country house
of yours is the centre of half the mischief in England, and the
sporting squire the most astute secret-service man in Europe. Genius,
my dear Von Bork—genius!"

"You flatter me, Baron. But certainly I may claim my four years in this
country have not been unproductive. I've never shown you my little
store. Would you mind stepping in for a moment?"

The door of the study opened straight on to the terrace. Von Bork
pushed it back, and, leading the way, he clicked the switch of the
electric light. He then closed the door behind the bulky form which
followed him and carefully adjusted the heavy curtain over the latticed
window. Only when all these precautions had been taken and tested did
he turn his sunburned aquiline face to his guest.

"Some of my papers have gone," said he. "When my wife and the household
left yesterday for Flushing they took the less important with them. I
must, of course, claim the protection of the embassy for the others."

"Your name has already been filed as one of the personal suite. There
will be no difficulties for you or your baggage. Of course, it is just
possible that we may not have to go. England may leave France to her
fate. We are sure that there is no binding treaty between them."

"And Belgium?"

"Yes, and Belgium, too."

Von Bork shook his head. "I don't see how that could be. There is a
definite treaty there. She could never recover from such a
humiliation."

"She would at least have peace for the moment."

"But her honor?"

"Tut, my dear sir, we live in a utilitarian age. Honour is a mediaeval
conception. Besides England is not ready. It is an inconceivable thing,
but even our special war tax of fifty million, which one would think
made our purpose as clear as if we had advertised it on the front page
of the Times, has not roused these people from their slumbers. Here and
there one hears a question. It is my business to find an answer. Here
and there also there is an irritation. It is my business to soothe it.
But I can assure you that so far as the essentials go—the storage of
munitions, the preparation for submarine attack, the arrangements for
making high explosives—nothing is prepared. How, then, can England come
in, especially when we have stirred her up such a devil's brew of Irish
civil war, window-breaking Furies, and God knows what to keep her
thoughts at home."

"She must think of her future."

"Ah, that is another matter. I fancy that in the future we have our own
very definite plans about England, and that your information will be
very vital to us. It is to-day or to-morrow with Mr. John Bull. If he
prefers to-day we are perfectly ready. If it is to-morrow we shall be
more ready still. I should think they would be wiser to fight with
allies than without them, but that is their own affair. This week is
their week of destiny. But you were speaking of your papers." He sat in
the armchair with the light shining upon his broad bald head, while he
puffed sedately at his cigar.

The large oak-panelled, book-lined room had a curtain hung in the
further corner. When this was drawn it disclosed a large, brass-bound
safe. Von Bork detached a small key from his watch chain, and after
some considerable manipulation of the lock he swung open the heavy
door.

"Look!" said he, standing clear, with a wave of his hand.

The light shone vividly into the opened safe, and the secretary of the
embassy gazed with an absorbed interest at the rows of stuffed
pigeon-holes with which it was furnished. Each pigeon-hole had its
label, and his eyes as he glanced along them read a long series of such
titles as "Fords," "Harbour-defences," "Aeroplanes," "Ireland,"
"Egypt," "Portsmouth forts," "The Channel," "Rosythe," and a score of
others. Each compartment was bristling with papers and plans.

"Colossal!" said the secretary. Putting down his cigar he softly
clapped his fat hands.

"And all in four years, Baron. Not such a bad show for the
hard-drinking, hard-riding country squire. But the gem of my collection
is coming and there is the setting all ready for it." He pointed to a
space over which "Naval Signals" was printed.

"But you have a good dossier there already."

"Out of date and waste paper. The Admiralty in some way got the alarm
and every code has been changed. It was a blow, Baron—the worst setback
in my whole campaign. But thanks to my check-book and the good Altamont
all will be well to-night."

The Baron looked at his watch and gave a guttural exclamation of
disappointment.

"Well, I really can wait no longer. You can imagine that things are
moving at present in Carlton Terrace and that we have all to be at our
posts. I had hoped to be able to bring news of your great coup. Did
Altamont name no hour?"

Von Bork pushed over a telegram.

 Will come without fail to-night and bring new sparking plugs.
 Altamont.


"Sparking plugs, eh?"

"You see he poses as a motor expert and I keep a full garage. In our
code everything likely to come up is named after some spare part. If he
talks of a radiator it is a battleship, of an oil pump a cruiser, and
so on. Sparking plugs are naval signals."

"From Portsmouth at midday," said the secretary, examining the
superscription. "By the way, what do you give him?"

"Five hundred pounds for this particular job. Of course he has a salary
as well."

"The greedy rogue. They are useful, these traitors, but I grudge them
their blood money."

"I grudge Altamont nothing. He is a wonderful worker. If I pay him
well, at least he delivers the goods, to use his own phrase. Besides he
is not a traitor. I assure you that our most pan-Germanic Junker is a
sucking dove in his feelings towards England as compared with a real
bitter Irish-American."

"Oh, an Irish-American?"

"If you heard him talk you would not doubt it. Sometimes I assure you I
can hardly understand him. He seems to have declared war on the King's
English as well as on the English king. Must you really go? He may be
here any moment."

"No. I'm sorry, but I have already overstayed my time. We shall expect
you early to-morrow, and when you get that signal book through the
little door on the Duke of York's steps you can put a triumphant Finis
to your record in England. What! Tokay!" He indicated a heavily sealed
dust-covered bottle which stood with two high glasses upon a salver.

"May I offer you a glass before your journey?"

"No, thanks. But it looks like revelry."

"Altamont has a nice taste in wines, and he took a fancy to my Tokay.
He is a touchy fellow and needs humouring in small things. I have to
study him, I assure you." They had strolled out on to the terrace
again, and along it to the further end where at a touch from the
Baron's chauffeur the great car shivered and chuckled. "Those are the
lights of Harwich, I suppose," said the secretary, pulling on his dust
coat. "How still and peaceful it all seems. There may be other lights
within the week, and the English coast a less tranquil place! The
heavens, too, may not be quite so peaceful if all that the good Zepplin
promises us comes true. By the way, who is that?"

Only one window showed a light behind them; in it there stood a lamp,
and beside it, seated at a table, was a dear old ruddy-faced woman in a
country cap. She was bending over her knitting and stopping
occasionally to stroke a large black cat upon a stool beside her.

"That is Martha, the only servant I have left."

The secretary chuckled.

"She might almost personify Britannia," said he, "with her complete
self-absorption and general air of comfortable somnolence. Well, au
revoir, Von Bork!" With a final wave of his hand he sprang into the
car, and a moment later the two golden cones from the headlights shot
through the darkness. The secretary lay back in the cushions of the
luxurious limousine, with his thoughts so full of the impending
European tragedy that he hardly observed that as his car swung round
the village street it nearly passed over a little Ford coming in the
opposite direction.

Von Bork walked slowly back to the study when the last gleams of the
motor lamps had faded into the distance. As he passed he observed that
his old housekeeper had put out her lamp and retired. It was a new
experience to him, the silence and darkness of his widespread house,
for his family and household had been a large one. It was a relief to
him, however, to think that they were all in safety and that, but for
that one old woman who had lingered in the kitchen, he had the whole
place to himself. There was a good deal of tidying up to do inside his
study and he set himself to do it until his keen, handsome face was
flushed with the heat of the burning papers. A leather valise stood
beside his table, and into this he began to pack very neatly and
systematically the precious contents of his safe. He had hardly got
started with the work, however, when his quick ears caught the sounds
of a distant car. Instantly he gave an exclamation of satisfaction,
strapped up the valise, shut the safe, locked it, and hurried out on to
the terrace. He was just in time to see the lights of a small car come
to a halt at the gate. A passenger sprang out of it and advanced
swiftly towards him, while the chauffeur, a heavily built, elderly man
with a gray moustache, settled down like one who resigns himself to a
long vigil.

"Well?" asked Von Bork eagerly, running forward to meet his visitor.

For answer the man waved a small brown-paper parcel triumphantly above
his head.

"You can give me the glad hand to-night, mister," he cried. "I'm
bringing home the bacon at last."

"The signals?"

"Same as I said in my cable. Every last one of them, semaphore, lamp
code, Marconi—a copy, mind you, not the original. That was too
dangerous. But it's the real goods, and you can lay to that." He
slapped the German upon the shoulder with a rough familiarity from
which the other winced.

"Come in," he said. "I'm all alone in the house. I was only waiting for
this. Of course a copy is better than the original. If an original were
missing they would change the whole thing. You think it's all safe
about the copy?"

The Irish-American had entered the study and stretched his long limbs
from the armchair. He was a tall, gaunt man of sixty, with clear-cut
features and a small goatee beard which gave him a general resemblance
to the caricatures of Uncle Sam. A half-smoked, sodden cigar hung from
the corner of his mouth, and as he sat down he struck a match and relit
it. "Making ready for a move?" he remarked as he looked round him.
"Say, mister," he added, as his eyes fell upon the safe from which the
curtain was now removed, "you don't tell me you keep your papers in
that?"

"Why not?"

"Gosh, in a wide-open contraption like that! And they reckon you to be
some spy. Why, a Yankee crook would be into that with a can-opener. If
I'd known that any letter of mine was goin' to lie loose in a thing
like that I'd have been a mug to write to you at all."

"It would puzzle any crook to force that safe," Von Bork answered. "You
won't cut that metal with any tool."

"But the lock?"

"No, it's a double combination lock. You know what that is?"

"Search me," said the American.

"Well, you need a word as well as a set of figures before you can get
the lock to work." He rose and showed a double-radiating disc round the
keyhole. "This outer one is for the letters, the inner one for the
figures."

"Well, well, that's fine."

"So it's not quite as simple as you thought. It was four years ago that
I had it made, and what do you think I chose for the word and figures?"

"It's beyond me."

"Well, I chose August for the word, and 1914 for the figures, and here
we are."

The American's face showed his surprise and admiration.

"My, but that was smart! You had it down to a fine thing."

"Yes, a few of us even then could have guessed the date. Here it is,
and I'm shutting down to-morrow morning."

"Well, I guess you'll have to fix me up also. I'm not staying in this
gol-darned country all on my lonesome. In a week or less, from what I
see, John Bull will be on his hind legs and fair ramping. I'd rather
watch him from over the water."

"But you're an American citizen?"

"Well, so was Jack James an American citizen, but he's doing time in
Portland all the same. It cuts no ice with a British copper to tell him
you're an American citizen. 'It's British law and order over here,'
says he. By the way, mister, talking of Jack James, it seems to me you
don't do much to cover your men."

"What do you mean?" Von Bork asked sharply.

"Well, you are their employer, ain't you? It's up to you to see that
they don't fall down. But they do fall down, and when did you ever pick
them up? There's James—"

"It was James's own fault. You know that yourself. He was too
self-willed for the job."

"James was a bonehead—I give you that. Then there was Hollis."

"The man was mad."

"Well, he went a bit woozy towards the end. It's enough to make a man
bug-house when he has to play a part from morning to night with a
hundred guys all ready to set the coppers wise to him. But now there is
Steiner—"

Von Bork started violently, and his ruddy face turned a shade paler.

"What about Steiner?"

"Well, they've got him, that's all. They raided his store last night,
and he and his papers are all in Portsmouth jail. You'll go off and he,
poor devil, will have to stand the racket, and lucky if he gets off
with his life. That's why I want to get over the water as soon as you
do."

Von Bork was a strong, self-contained man, but it was easy to see that
the news had shaken him.

"How could they have got on to Steiner?" he muttered. "That's the worst
blow yet."

"Well, you nearly had a worse one, for I believe they are not far off
me."

"You don't mean that!"

"Sure thing. My landlady down Fratton way had some inquiries, and when
I heard of it I guessed it was time for me to hustle. But what I want
to know, mister, is how the coppers know these things? Steiner is the
fifth man you've lost since I signed on with you, and I know the name
of the sixth if I don't get a move on. How do you explain it, and ain't
you ashamed to see your men go down like this?"

Von Bork flushed crimson.

"How dare you speak in such a way!"

"If I didn't dare things, mister, I wouldn't be in your service. But
I'll tell you straight what is in my mind. I've heard that with you
German politicians when an agent has done his work you are not sorry to
see him put away."

Von Bork sprang to his feet.

"Do you dare to suggest that I have given away my own agents!"

"I don't stand for that, mister, but there's a stool pigeon or a cross
somewhere, and it's up to you to find out where it is. Anyhow I am
taking no more chances. It's me for little Holland, and the sooner the
better."

Von Bork had mastered his anger.

"We have been allies too long to quarrel now at the very hour of
victory," he said. "You've done splendid work and taken risks, and I
can't forget it. By all means go to Holland, and you can get a boat
from Rotterdam to New York. No other line will be safe a week from now.
I'll take that book and pack it with the rest."

The American held the small parcel in his hand, but made no motion to
give it up.

"What about the dough?" he asked.

"The what?"

"The boodle. The reward. The 500 pounds. The gunner turned damned nasty
at the last, and I had to square him with an extra hundred dollars or
it would have been nitsky for you and me. 'Nothin' doin'!' says he, and
he meant it, too, but the last hundred did it. It's cost me two hundred
pound from first to last, so it isn't likely I'd give it up without
gettin' my wad."

Von Bork smiled with some bitterness. "You don't seem to have a very
high opinion of my honour," said he, "you want the money before you
give up the book."

"Well, mister, it is a business proposition."

"All right. Have your way." He sat down at the table and scribbled a
check, which he tore from the book, but he refrained from handing it to
his companion. "After all, since we are to be on such terms, Mr.
Altamont," said he, "I don't see why I should trust you any more than
you trust me. Do you understand?" he added, looking back over his
shoulder at the American. "There's the check upon the table. I claim
the right to examine that parcel before you pick the money up."

The American passed it over without a word. Von Bork undid a winding of
string and two wrappers of paper. Then he sat gazing for a moment in
silent amazement at a small blue book which lay before him. Across the
cover was printed in golden letters Practical Handbook of Bee Culture.
Only for one instant did the master spy glare at this strangely
irrelevant inscription. The next he was gripped at the back of his neck
by a grasp of iron, and a chloroformed sponge was held in front of his
writhing face.

"Another glass, Watson!" said Mr. Sherlock Holmes as he extended the
bottle of Imperial Tokay.

The thickset chauffeur, who had seated himself by the table, pushed
forward his glass with some eagerness.

"It is a good wine, Holmes."

"A remarkable wine, Watson. Our friend upon the sofa has assured me
that it is from Franz Josef's special cellar at the Schoenbrunn Palace.
Might I trouble you to open the window, for chloroform vapour does not
help the palate."

The safe was ajar, and Holmes standing in front of it was removing
dossier after dossier, swiftly examining each, and then packing it
neatly in Von Bork's valise. The German lay upon the sofa sleeping
stertorously with a strap round his upper arms and another round his
legs.

"We need not hurry ourselves, Watson. We are safe from interruption.
Would you mind touching the bell? There is no one in the house except
old Martha, who has played her part to admiration. I got her the
situation here when first I took the matter up. Ah, Martha, you will be
glad to hear that all is well."

The pleasant old lady had appeared in the doorway. She curtseyed with a
smile to Mr. Holmes, but glanced with some apprehension at the figure
upon the sofa.

"It is all right, Martha. He has not been hurt at all."

"I am glad of that, Mr. Holmes. According to his lights he has been a
kind master. He wanted me to go with his wife to Germany yesterday, but
that would hardly have suited your plans, would it, sir?"

"No, indeed, Martha. So long as you were here I was easy in my mind. We
waited some time for your signal to-night."

"It was the secretary, sir."

"I know. His car passed ours."

"I thought he would never go. I knew that it would not suit your plans,
sir, to find him here."

"No, indeed. Well, it only meant that we waited half an hour or so
until I saw your lamp go out and knew that the coast was clear. You can
report to me to-morrow in London, Martha, at Claridge's Hotel."

"Very good, sir."

"I suppose you have everything ready to leave."

"Yes, sir. He posted seven letters to-day. I have the addresses as
usual."

"Very good, Martha. I will look into them to-morrow. Good-night. These
papers," he continued as the old lady vanished, "are not of very great
importance, for, of course, the information which they represent has
been sent off long ago to the German government. These are the
originals which could not safely be got out of the country."

"Then they are of no use."

"I should not go so far as to say that, Watson. They will at least show
our people what is known and what is not. I may say that a good many of
these papers have come through me, and I need not add are thoroughly
untrustworthy. It would brighten my declining years to see a German
cruiser navigating the Solent according to the mine-field plans which I
have furnished. But you, Watson"—he stopped his work and took his old
friend by the shoulders—"I've hardly seen you in the light yet. How
have the years used you? You look the same blithe boy as ever."

"I feel twenty years younger, Holmes. I have seldom felt so happy as
when I got your wire asking me to meet you at Harwich with the car. But
you, Holmes—you have changed very little—save for that horrible
goatee."

"These are the sacrifices one makes for one's country, Watson," said
Holmes, pulling at his little tuft. "To-morrow it will be but a
dreadful memory. With my hair cut and a few other superficial changes I
shall no doubt reappear at Claridge's to-morrow as I was before this
American stunt—I beg your pardon, Watson, my well of English seems to
be permanently defiled—before this American job came my way."

"But you have retired, Holmes. We heard of you as living the life of a
hermit among your bees and your books in a small farm upon the South
Downs."

"Exactly, Watson. Here is the fruit of my leisured ease, the magnum
opus of my latter years!" He picked up the volume from the table and
read out the whole title, Practical Handbook of Bee Culture, with Some
Observations upon the Segregation of the Queen. "Alone I did it. Behold
the fruit of pensive nights and laborious days when I watched the
little working gangs as once I watched the criminal world of London."

"But how did you get to work again?"

"Ah, I have often marvelled at it myself. The Foreign Minister alone I
could have withstood, but when the Premier also deigned to visit my
humble roof—! The fact is, Watson, that this gentleman upon the sofa
was a bit too good for our people. He was in a class by himself. Things
were going wrong, and no one could understand why they were going
wrong. Agents were suspected or even caught, but there was evidence of
some strong and secret central force. It was absolutely necessary to
expose it. Strong pressure was brought upon me to look into the matter.
It has cost me two years, Watson, but they have not been devoid of
excitement. When I say that I started my pilgrimage at Chicago,
graduated in an Irish secret society at Buffalo, gave serious trouble
to the constabulary at Skibbareen, and so eventually caught the eye of
a subordinate agent of Von Bork, who recommended me as a likely man,
you will realize that the matter was complex. Since then I have been
honoured by his confidence, which has not prevented most of his plans
going subtly wrong and five of his best agents being in prison. I
watched them, Watson, and I picked them as they ripened. Well, sir, I
hope that you are none the worse!"

The last remark was addressed to Von Bork himself, who after much
gasping and blinking had lain quietly listening to Holmes's statement.
He broke out now into a furious stream of German invective, his face
convulsed with passion. Holmes continued his swift investigation of
documents while his prisoner cursed and swore.

"Though unmusical, German is the most expressive of all languages," he
observed when Von Bork had stopped from pure exhaustion. "Hullo!
Hullo!" he added as he looked hard at the corner of a tracing before
putting it in the box. "This should put another bird in the cage. I had
no idea that the paymaster was such a rascal, though I have long had an
eye upon him. Mister Von Bork, you have a great deal to answer for."

The prisoner had raised himself with some difficulty upon the sofa and
was staring with a strange mixture of amazement and hatred at his
captor.

"I shall get level with you, Altamont," he said, speaking with slow
deliberation. "If it takes me all my life I shall get level with you!"

"The old sweet song," said Holmes. "How often have I heard it in days
gone by. It was a favorite ditty of the late lamented Professor
Moriarty. Colonel Sebastian Moran has also been known to warble it. And
yet I live and keep bees upon the South Downs."

"Curse you, you double traitor!" cried the German, straining against
his bonds and glaring murder from his furious eyes.

"No, no, it is not so bad as that," said Holmes, smiling. "As my speech
surely shows you, Mr. Altamont of Chicago had no existence in fact. I
used him and he is gone."

"Then who are you?"

"It is really immaterial who I am, but since the matter seems to
interest you, Mr. Von Bork, I may say that this is not my first
acquaintance with the members of your family. I have done a good deal
of business in Germany in the past and my name is probably familiar to
you."

"I would wish to know it," said the Prussian grimly.

"It was I who brought about the separation between Irene Adler and the
late King of Bohemia when your cousin Heinrich was the Imperial Envoy.
It was I also who saved from murder, by the Nihilist Klopman, Count Von
und Zu Grafenstein, who was your mother's elder brother. It was I—"

Von Bork sat up in amazement.

"There is only one man," he cried.

"Exactly," said Holmes.

Von Bork groaned and sank back on the sofa. "And most of that
information came through you," he cried. "What is it worth? What have I
done? It is my ruin forever!"

"It is certainly a little untrustworthy," said Holmes. "It will require
some checking and you have little time to check it. Your admiral may
find the new guns rather larger than he expects, and the cruisers
perhaps a trifle faster."

Von Bork clutched at his own throat in despair.

"There are a good many other points of detail which will, no doubt,
come to light in good time. But you have one quality which is very rare
in a German, Mr. Von Bork: you are a sportsman and you will bear me no
ill-will when you realize that you, who have outwitted so many other
people, have at last been outwitted yourself. After all, you have done
your best for your country, and I have done my best for mine, and what
could be more natural? Besides," he added, not unkindly, as he laid his
hand upon the shoulder of the prostrate man, "it is better than to fall
before some ignoble foe. These papers are now ready, Watson. If you
will help me with our prisoner, I think that we may get started for
London at once."

It was no easy task to move Von Bork, for he was a strong and a
desperate man. Finally, holding either arm, the two friends walked him
very slowly down the garden walk which he had trod with such proud
confidence when he received the congratulations of the famous
diplomatist only a few hours before. After a short, final struggle he
was hoisted, still bound hand and foot, into the spare seat of the
little car. His precious valise was wedged in beside him.

"I trust that you are as comfortable as circumstances permit," said
Holmes when the final arrangements were made. "Should I be guilty of a
liberty if I lit a cigar and placed it between your lips?"

But all amenities were wasted upon the angry German.

"I suppose you realize, Mr. Sherlock Holmes," said he, "that if your
government bears you out in this treatment it becomes an act of war."

"What about your government and all this treatment?" said Holmes,
tapping the valise.

"You are a private individual. You have no warrant for my arrest. The
whole proceeding is absolutely illegal and outrageous."

"Absolutely," said Holmes.

"Kidnapping a German subject."

"And stealing his private papers."

"Well, you realize your position, you and your accomplice here. If I
were to shout for help as we pass through the village—"

"My dear sir, if you did anything so foolish you would probably enlarge
the two limited titles of our village inns by giving us 'The Dangling
Prussian' as a signpost. The Englishman is a patient creature, but at
present his temper is a little inflamed, and it would be as well not to
try him too far. No, Mr. Von Bork, you will go with us in a quiet,
sensible fashion to Scotland Yard, whence you can send for your friend,
Baron Von Herling, and see if even now you may not fill that place
which he has reserved for you in the ambassadorial suite. As to you,
Watson, you are joining us with your old service, as I understand, so
London won't be out of your way. Stand with me here upon the terrace,
for it may be the last quiet talk that we shall ever have."

The two friends chatted in intimate converse for a few minutes,
recalling once again the days of the past, while their prisoner vainly
wriggled to undo the bonds that held him. As they turned to the car
Holmes pointed back to the moonlit sea and shook a thoughtful head.

"There's an east wind coming, Watson."

"I think not, Holmes. It is very warm."

"Good old Watson! You are the one fixed point in a changing age.
There's an east wind coming all the same, such a wind as never blew on
England yet. It will be cold and bitter, Watson, and a good many of us
may wither before its blast. But it's God's own wind none the less, and
a cleaner, better, stronger land will lie in the sunshine when the
storm has cleared. Start her up, Watson, for it's time that we were on
our way. I have a check for five hundred pounds which should be cashed
early, for the drawer is quite capable of stopping it if he can."





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