The Return of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle
Part 4 out of 7
you think of it, Mr. Holmes?"
"I think that fortune is very kind to us."
"You mean that the person will come again?"
"It is very probable. He came expecting to find the door open.
He tried to get in with the blade of a very small penknife. He
could not manage it. What would he do?"
"Come again next night with a more useful tool."
"So I should say. It will be our fault if we are not there to
receive him. Meanwhile, let me see the inside of the cabin."
The traces of the tragedy had been removed, but the furniture
within the little room still stood as it had been on the night
of the crime. For two hours, with most intense concentration,
Holmes examined every object in turn, but his face showed that
his quest was not a successful one. Once only he paused in his
"Have you taken anything off this shelf, Hopkins?"
"No, I have moved nothing."
"Something has been taken. There is less dust in this corner of
the shelf than elsewhere. It may have been a book lying on its
side. It may have been a box. Well, well, I can do nothing more.
Let us walk in these beautiful woods, Watson, and give a few
hours to the birds and the flowers. We shall meet you here
later, Hopkins, and see if we can come to closer quarters with
the gentleman who has paid this visit in the night."
It was past eleven o'clock when we formed our little ambuscade.
Hopkins was for leaving the door of the hut open, but Holmes was
of the opinion that this would rouse the suspicions of the
stranger. The lock was a perfectly simple one, and only a strong
blade was needed to push it back. Holmes also suggested that we
should wait, not inside the hut, but outside it, among the
bushes which grew round the farther window. In this way we
should be able to watch our man if he struck a light, and see
what his object was in this stealthy nocturnal visit.
It was a long and melancholy vigil, and yet brought with it
something of the thrill which the hunter feels when he lies
beside the water-pool, and waits for the coming of the thirsty
beast of prey. What savage creature was it which might steal
upon us out of the darkness? Was it a fierce tiger of crime,
which could only be taken fighting hard with flashing fang and
claw, or would it prove to be some skulking jackal, dangerous
only to the weak and unguarded?
In absolute silence we crouched amongst the bushes, waiting for
whatever might come. At first the steps of a few belated
villagers, or the sound of voices from the village, lightened
our vigil, but one by one these interruptions died away, and an
absolute stillness fell upon us, save for the chimes of the
distant church, which told us of the progress of the night, and
for the rustle and whisper of a fine rain falling amid the
foliage which roofed us in.
Half-past two had chimed, and it was the darkest hour which
precedes the dawn, when we all started as a low but sharp click
came from the direction of the gate. Someone had entered the
drive. Again there was a long silence, and I had begun to fear
that it was a false alarm, when a stealthy step was heard upon
the other side of the hut, and a moment later a metallic
scraping and clinking. The man was trying to force the lock.
This time his skill was greater or his tool was better, for
there was a sudden snap and the creak of the hinges. Then a
match was struck, and next instant the steady light from a
candle filled the interior of the hut. Through the gauze curtain
our eyes were all riveted upon the scene within.
The nocturnal visitor was a young man, frail and thin, with a
black moustache, which intensified the deadly pallor of his
face. He could not have been much above twenty years of age. I
have never seen any human being who appeared to be in such a
pitiable fright, for his teeth were visibly chattering, and he
was shaking in every limb. He was dressed like a gentleman, in
Norfolk jacket and knickerbockers, with a cloth cap upon his
head. We watched him staring round with frightened eyes. Then he
laid the candle-end upon the table and disappeared from our view
into one of the corners. He returned with a large book, one of
the logbooks which formed a line upon the shelves. Leaning on
the table, he rapidly turned over the leaves of this volume
until he came to the entry which he sought. Then, with an angry
gesture of his clenched hand, he closed the book, replaced it in
the corner, and put out the light. He had hardly turned to leave
the hut when Hopkin's hand was on the fellow's collar, and I heard
his loud gasp of terror as he understood that he was taken. The
candle was relit, and there was our wretched captive, shivering and
cowering in the grasp of the detective. He sank down upon the
sea-chest, and looked helplessly from one of us to the other.
"Now, my fine fellow," said Stanley Hopkins, "who are you, and
what do you want here?"
The man pulled himself together, and faced us with an effort at
"You are detectives, I suppose?" said he. "You imagine I am
connected with the death of Captain Peter Carey. I assure you
that I am innocent."
"We'll see about that," said Hopkins. "First of all, what is
"It is John Hopley Neligan."
I saw Holmes and Hopkins exchange a quick glance.
"What are you doing here?"
"Can I speak confidentially?"
"No, certainly not."
"Why should I tell you?"
"If you have no answer, it may go badly with you at the trial."
The young man winced.
"Well, I will tell you," he said. "Why should I not? And yet I
hate to think of this old scandal gaining a new lease of life.
Did you ever hear of Dawson and Neligan?"
I could see, from Hopkins's face, that he never had, but Holmes
was keenly interested.
"You mean the West Country bankers," said he. "They failed for
a million, ruined half the county families of Cornwall, and
"Exactly. Neligan was my father."
At last we were getting something positive, and yet it seemed a
long gap between an absconding banker and Captain Peter Carey
pinned against the wall with one of his own harpoons. We all
listened intently to the young man's words.
"It was my father who was really concerned. Dawson had retired.
I was only ten years of age at the time, but I was old enough to
feel the shame and horror of it all. It has always been said
that my father stole all the securities and fled. It is not
true. It was his belief that if he were given time in which to
realize them, all would be well and every creditor paid in full.
He started in his little yacht for Norway just before the
warrant was issued for his arrest. I can remember that last
night when he bade farewell to my mother. He left us a list of
the securities he was taking, and he swore that he would come
back with his honour cleared, and that none who had trusted him
would suffer. Well, no word was ever heard from him again. Both
the yacht and he vanished utterly. We believed, my mother and I,
that he and it, with the securities that he had taken with him,
were at the bottom of the sea. We had a faithful friend,
however, who is a business man, and it was he who discovered
some time ago that some of the securities which my father had
with him had reappeared on the London market. You can imagine
our amazement. I spent months in trying to trace them, and at
last, after many doubtings and difficulties, I discovered that
the original seller had been Captain Peter Carey, the owner of
"Naturally, I made some inquiries about the man. I found that he
had been in command of a whaler which was due to return from the
Arctic seas at the very time when my father was crossing to
Norway. The autumn of that year was a stormy one, and there was
a long succession of southerly gales. My father's yacht may well
have been blown to the north, and there met by Captain Peter
Carey's ship. If that were so, what had become of my father? In
any case, if I could prove from Peter Carey's evidence how these
securities came on the market it would be a proof that my father
had not sold them, and that he had no view to personal profit
when he took them.
"I came down to Sussex with the intention of seeing the captain,
but it was at this moment that his terrible death occurred. I
read at the inquest a description of his cabin, in which it
stated that the old logbooks of his vessel were preserved in it.
It struck me that if I could see what occurred in the month of
August, 1883, on board the SEA UNICORN, I might settle the
mystery of my father's fate. I tried last night to get at these
logbooks, but was unable to open the door. To-night I tried
again and succeeded, but I find that the pages which deal with
that month have been torn from the book. It was at that moment
I found myself a prisoner in your hands."
"Is that all?" asked Hopkins.
"Yes, that is all." His eyes shifted as he said it.
"You have nothing else to tell us?"
"No, there is nothing."
"You have not been here before last night?"
"Then how do you account for THAT?" cried Hopkins, as he held up
the damning notebook, with the initials of our prisoner on the
first leaf and the blood-stain on the cover.
The wretched man collapsed. He sank his face in his hands, and
trembled all over.
"Where did you get it?" he groaned. "I did not know. I thought
I had lost it at the hotel."
"That is enough," said Hopkins, sternly. "Whatever else you have
to say, you must say in court. You will walk down with me now to
the police-station. Well, Mr. Holmes, I am very much obliged to
you and to your friend for coming down to help me. As it turns
out your presence was unnecessary, and I would have brought the
case to this successful issue without you, but, none the less,
I am grateful. Rooms have been reserved for you at the
Brambletye Hotel, so we can all walk down to the village together."
"Well, Watson, what do you think of it?" asked Holmes, as we
travelled back next morning.
"I can see that you are not satisfied."
"Oh, yes, my dear Watson, I am perfectly satisfied. At the same
time, Stanley Hopkins's methods do not commend themselves to me.
I am disappointed in Stanley Hopkins. I had hoped for better
things from him. One should always look for a possible
alternative, and provide against it. It is the first rule of
"What, then, is the alternative?"
"The line of investigation which I have myself been pursuing. It
may give us nothing. I cannot tell. But at least I shall follow
it to the end."
Several letters were waiting for Holmes at Baker Street. He
snatched one of them up, opened it, and burst out into a
triumphant chuckle of laughter.
"Excellent, Watson! The alternative develops. Have you telegraph
forms? Just write a couple of messages for me: `Sumner, Shipping
Agent, Ratcliff Highway. Send three men on, to arrive ten
to-morrow morning.--Basil.' That's my name in those parts. The
other is: `Inspector Stanley Hopkins, 46 Lord Street, Brixton.
Come breakfast to-morrow at nine-thirty. Important. Wire if
unable to come.--Sherlock Holmes.' There, Watson, this infernal
case has haunted me for ten days. I hereby banish it completely
from my presence. To-morrow, I trust that we shall hear the last
of it forever."
Sharp at the hour named Inspector Stanley Hopkins appeared, and
we sat down together to the excellent breakfast which Mrs.
Hudson had prepared. The young detective was in high spirits at
"You really think that your solution must be correct?" asked Holmes.
"I could not imagine a more complete case."
"It did not seem to me conclusive."
"You astonish me, Mr. Holmes. What more could one ask for?"
"Does your explanation cover every point?"
"Undoubtedly. I find that young Neligan arrived at the
Brambletye Hotel on the very day of the crime. He came on the
pretence of playing golf. His room was on the ground-floor, and
he could get out when he liked. That very night he went down to
Woodman's Lee, saw Peter Carey at the hut, quarrelled with him,
and killed him with the harpoon. Then, horrified by what he had
done, he fled out of the hut, dropping the notebook which he had
brought with him in order to question Peter Carey about these
different securities. You may have observed that some of them
were marked with ticks, and the others--the great majority--were
not. Those which are ticked have been traced on the London
market, but the others, presumably, were still in the possession
of Carey, and young Neligan, according to his own account, was
anxious to recover them in order to do the right thing by his
father's creditors. After his flight he did not dare to approach
the hut again for some time, but at last he forced himself to do
so in order to obtain the information which he needed. Surely
that is all simple and obvious?"
Holmes smiled and shook his head. "It seems to me to have only
one drawback, Hopkins, and that is that it is intrinsically
impossible. Have you tried to drive a harpoon through a body?
No? Tut, tut my dear sir, you must really pay attention to these
details. My friend Watson could tell you that I spent a whole
morning in that exercise. It is no easy matter, and requires a
strong and practised arm. But this blow was delivered with such
violence that the head of the weapon sank deep into the wall. Do
you imagine that this anaemic youth was capable of so frightful
an assault? Is he the man who hobnobbed in rum and water with
Black Peter in the dead of the night? Was it his profile that
was seen on the blind two nights before? No, no, Hopkins, it is
another and more formidable person for whom we must seek."
The detective's face had grown longer and longer during Holmes's
speech. His hopes and his ambitions were all crumbling about
him. But he would not abandon his position without a struggle.
"You can't deny that Neligan was present that night, Mr. Holmes.
The book will prove that. I fancy that I have evidence enough to
satisfy a jury, even if you are able to pick a hole in it.
Besides, Mr. Holmes, I have laid my hand upon MY man. As to this
terrible person of yours, where is he?"
"I rather fancy that he is on the stair," said Holmes, serenely.
"I think, Watson, that you would do well to put that revolver
where you can reach it." He rose and laid a written paper upon
a side-table. "Now we are ready," said he.
There had been some talking in gruff voices outside, and now
Mrs. Hudson opened the door to say that there were three men
inquiring for Captain Basil.
"Show them in one by one," said Holmes.
"The first who entered was a little Ribston pippin of a man,
with ruddy cheeks and fluffy white side-whiskers. Holmes had
drawn a letter from his pocket.
"What name?" he asked.
"I am sorry, Lancaster, but the berth is full. Here is half a
sovereign for your trouble. Just step into this room and wait
there for a few minutes."
The second man was a long, dried-up creature, with lank hair and
sallow cheeks. His name was Hugh Pattins. He also received his
dismissal, his half-sovereign, and the order to wait.
The third applicant was a man of remarkable appearance. A fierce
bull-dog face was framed in a tangle of hair and beard, and two
bold, dark eyes gleamed behind the cover of thick, tufted,
overhung eyebrows. He saluted and stood sailor-fashion, turning
his cap round in his hands.
"Your name?" asked Holmes.
"Yes, sir. Twenty-six voyages."
"Dundee, I suppose?"
"And ready to start with an exploring ship?"
"Eight pounds a month."
"Could you start at once?"
"As soon as I get my kit."
"Have you your papers?"
"Yes, sir." He took a sheaf of worn and greasy forms from his
pocket. Holmes glanced over them and returned them.
"You are just the man I want," said he. "Here's the agreement on
the side-table. If you sign it the whole matter will be settled."
The seaman lurched across the room and took up the pen.
"Shall I sign here?" he asked, stooping over the table.
Holmes leaned over his shoulder and passed both hands over his neck.
"This will do," said he.
I heard a click of steel and a bellow like an enraged bull. The
next instant Holmes and the seaman were rolling on the ground
together. He was a man of such gigantic strength that, even with
the handcuffs which Holmes had so deftly fastened upon his
wrists, he would have very quickly overpowered my friend had
Hopkins and I not rushed to his rescue. Only when I pressed the
cold muzzle of the revolver to his temple did he at last
understand that resistance was vain. We lashed his ankles with
cord, and rose breathless from the struggle.
"I must really apologize, Hopkins," said Sherlock Holmes. "I
fear that the scrambled eggs are cold. However, you will enjoy
the rest of your breakfast all the better, will you not, for the
thought that you have brought your case to a triumphant conclusion."
Stanley Hopkins was speechless with amazement.
"I don't know what to say, Mr. Holmes," he blurted out at last,
with a very red face. "It seems to me that I have been making a
fool of myself from the beginning. I understand now, what I
should never have forgotten, that I am the pupil and you are the
master. Even now I see what you have done, but I don't know how
you did it or what it signifies."
"Well, well," said Holmes, good-humouredly. "We all learn by
experience, and your lesson this time is that you should never
lose sight of the alternative. You were so absorbed in young
Neligan that you could not spare a thought to Patrick Cairns,
the true murderer of Peter Carey."
The hoarse voice of the seaman broke in on our conversation.
"See here, mister," said he, "I make no complaint of being
man-handled in this fashion, but I would have you call things by
their right names. You say I murdered Peter Carey, I say I
KILLED Peter Carey, and there's all the difference. Maybe you
don't believe what I say. Maybe you think I am just slinging you
"Not at all," said Holmes. "Let us hear what you have to say."
"It's soon told, and, by the Lord, every word of it is truth. I
knew Black Peter, and when he pulled out his knife I whipped a
harpoon through him sharp, for I knew that it was him or me.
That's how he died. You can call it murder. Anyhow, I'd as soon
die with a rope round my neck as with Black Peter's knife in my
"How came you there?" asked Holmes.
"I'll tell it you from the beginning. Just sit me up a little,
so as I can speak easy. It was in '83 that it happened--August
of that year. Peter Carey was master of the SEA UNICORN, and I
was spare harpooner. We were coming out of the ice-pack on our
way home, with head winds and a week's southerly gale, when we
picked up a little craft that had been blown north. There was
one man on her--a landsman. The crew had thought she would
founder and had made for the Norwegian coast in the dinghy. I
guess they were all drowned. Well, we took him on board, this
man, and he and the skipper had some long talks in the cabin.
All the baggage we took off with him was one tin box. So far as
I know, the man's name was never mentioned, and on the second
night he disappeared as if he had never been. It was given out
that he had either thrown himself overboard or fallen overboard
in the heavy weather that we were having. Only one man knew what
had happened to him, and that was me, for, with my own eyes, I
saw the skipper tip up his heels and put him over the rail in
the middle watch of a dark night, two days before we sighted the
Shetland Lights. "Well, I kept my knowledge to myself, and
waited to see what would come of it. When we got back to Scotland
it was easily hushed up, and nobody asked any questions. A
stranger died by accident and it was nobody's business to
inquire. Shortly after Peter Carey gave up the sea, and it was
long years before I could find where he was. I guessed that he
had done the deed for the sake of what was in that tin box, and
that he could afford now to pay me well for keeping my mouth
shut. "I found out where he was through a sailor man that had
met him in London, and down I went to squeeze him. The first
night he was reasonable enough, and was ready to give me what
would make me free of the sea for life. We were to fix it all
two nights later. When I came, I found him three parts drunk and
in a vile temper. We sat down and we drank and we yarned about
old times, but the more he drank the less I liked the look on
his face. I spotted that harpoon upon the wall, and I thought I
might need it before I was through. Then at last he broke out at
me, spitting and cursing, with murder in his eyes and a great
clasp-knife in his hand. He had not time to get it from the
sheath before I had the harpoon through him. Heavens! what a
yell he gave! and his face gets between me and my sleep. I stood
there, with his blood splashing round me, and I waited for a
bit, but all was quiet, so I took heart once more. I looked
round, and there was the tin box on the shelf. I had as much
right to it as Peter Carey, anyhow, so I took it with me and
left the hut. Like a fool I left my baccy-pouch upon the table.
"Now I'll tell you the queerest part of the whole story. I had
hardly got outside the hut when I heard someone coming, and I
hid among the bushes. A man came slinking along, went into the
hut, gave a cry as if he had seen a ghost, and legged it as hard
as he could run until he was out of sight. Who he was or what he
wanted is more than I can tell. For my part I walked ten miles,
got a train at Tunbridge Wells, and so reached London, and no
one the wiser.
"Well, when I came to examine the box I found there was no money
in it, and nothing but papers that I would not dare to sell. I
had lost my hold on Black Peter and was stranded in London
without a shilling. There was only my trade left. I saw these
advertisements about harpooners, and high wages, so I went to
the shipping agents, and they sent me here. That's all I know,
and I say again that if I killed Black Peter, the law should
give me thanks, for I saved them the rice of a hempen rope."
"A very clear statement said Holmes, rising and lighting his
pipe. "I think, Hopkins, that you should lose no time in
conveying your prisoner to a place of safety. This room is not
well adapted for a cell, and Mr. Patrick Cairns occupies too
large a proportion of our carpet."
"Mr. Holmes," said Hopkins, "I do not know how to express my
gratitude. Even now I do not understand how you attained this
"Simply by having the good fortune to get the right clue from
the beginning. It is very possible if I had known about this
notebook it might have led away my thoughts, as it did yours.
But all I heard pointed in the one direction. The amazing
strength, the skill in the use of the harpoon, the rum and
water, the sealskin tobacco-pouch with the coarse tobacco--all
these pointed to a seaman, and one who had been a whaler. I was
convinced that the initials `P.C.' upon the pouch were a
coincidence, and not those of Peter Carey, since he seldom
smoked, and no pipe was found in his cabin. You remember that I
asked whether whisky and brandy were in the cabin. You said they
were. How many landsmen are there who would drink rum when they
could get these other spirits? Yes, I was certain it was a seaman."
"And how did you find him?"
"My dear sir, the problem had become a very simple one. If it
were a seaman, it could only be a seaman who had been with him
on the SEA UNICORN. So far as I could learn he had sailed in no
other ship. I spent three days in wiring to Dundee, and at the
end of that time I had ascertained the names of the crew of the
SEA UNICORN in 1883. When I found Patrick Cairns among the
harpooners, my research was nearing its end. I argued that the
man was probably in London, and that he would desire to leave the
country for a time. I therefore spent some days in the East End,
devised an Arctic expedition, put forth tempting terms for harpooners
who would serve under Captain Basil--and behold the result!"
"Wonderful!" cried Hopkins. "Wonderful!"
"You must obtain the release of young Neligan as soon as
possible," said Holmes. "I confess that I think you owe him some
apology. The tin box must be returned to him, but, of course,
the securities which Peter Carey has sold are lost forever.
There's the cab, Hopkins, and you can remove your man. If you
want me for the trial, my address and that of Watson will be
somewhere in Norway--I'll send particulars later."
THE ADVENTURE OF CHARLES AUGUSTUS MILVERTON
It is years since the incidents of which I speak took place, and
yet it is with diffidence that I allude to them. For a long
time, even with the utmost discretion and reticence, it would
have been impossible to make the facts public, but now the
principal person concerned is beyond the reach of human law, and
with due suppression the story may be told in such fashion as to
injure no one. It records an absolutely unique experience in the
career both of Mr. Sherlock Holmes and of myself. The reader
will excuse me if I conceal the date or any other fact by which
he might trace the actual occurrence.
We had been out for one of our evening rambles, Holmes and I,
and had returned about six o'clock on a cold, frosty winter's
evening. As Holmes turned up the lamp the light fell upon a card
on the table. He glanced at it, and then, with an ejaculation of
disgust, threw it on the floor. I picked it up and read:
CHARLES AUGUSTUS MILVERTON,
"Who is he?" I asked.
"The worst man in London," Holmes answered, as he sat down and
stretched his legs before the fire. "Is anything on the back of
I turned it over.
"Will call at 6:30--C.A.M.," I read.
"Hum! He's about due. Do you feel a creeping, shrinking
sensation, Watson, when you stand before the serpents in the
Zoo, and see the slithery, gliding, venomous creatures, with
their deadly eyes and wicked, flattened faces? Well, that's how
Milverton impresses me. I've had to do with fifty murderers in
my career, but the worst of them never gave me the repulsion
which I have for this fellow. And yet I can't get out of doing
business with him--indeed, he is here at my invitation."
"But who is he?"
"I'll tell you, Watson. He is the king of all the blackmailers.
Heaven help the man, and still more the woman, whose secret and
reputation come into the power of Milverton! With a smiling face
and a heart of marble, he will squeeze and squeeze until he has
drained them dry. The fellow is a genius in his way, and would
have made his mark in some more savoury trade. His method is as
follows: He allows it to be known that he is prepared to pay
very high sums for letters which compromise people of wealth and
position. He receives these wares not only from treacherous
valets or maids, but frequently from genteel ruffians, who have
gained the confidence and affection of trusting women. He deals
with no niggard hand. I happen to know that he paid seven
hundred pounds to a footman for a note two lines in length, and
that the ruin of a noble family was the result. Everything which
is in the market goes to Milverton, and there are hundreds in
this great city who turn white at his name. No one knows where
his grip may fall, for he is far too rich and far too cunning to
work from hand to mouth. He will hold a card back for years in
order to play it at the moment when the stake is best worth
winning. I have said that he is the worst man in London, and I
would ask you how could one compare the ruffian, who in hot
blood bludgeons his mate, with this man, who methodically and
at his leisure tortures the soul and wrings the nerves in order
to add to his already swollen money-bags?"
I had seldom heard my friend speak with such intensity of feeling.
"But surely," said I, "the fellow must be within the grasp of
"Technically, no doubt, but practically not. What would it
profit a woman, for example, to get him a few months'
imprisonment if her own ruin must immediately follow? His
victims dare not hit back. If ever he blackmailed an innocent
person, then indeed we should have him, but he is as cunning as
the Evil One. No, no, we must find other ways to fight him."
"And why is he here?"
"Because an illustrious client has placed her piteous case in my
hands. It is the Lady Eva Blackwell, the most beautiful
debutante of last season. She is to be married in a fortnight to
the Earl of Dovercourt. This fiend has several imprudent
letters--imprudent, Watson, nothing worse--which were written to
an impecunious young squire in the country. They would suffice
to break off the match. Milverton will send the letters to the
Earl unless a large sum of money is paid him. I have been
commissioned to meet him, and--to make the best terms I can."
At that instant there was a clatter and a rattle in the street
below. Looking down I saw a stately carriage and pair, the
brilliant lamps gleaming on the glossy haunches of the noble
chestnuts. A footman opened the door, and a small, stout man in
a shaggy astrakhan overcoat descended. A minute later he was in
Charles Augustus Milverton was a man of fifty, with a large,
intellectual head, a round, plump, hairless face, a perpetual
frozen smile, and two keen gray eyes, which gleamed brightly
from behind broad, gold-rimmed glasses. There was something of
Mr. Pickwick's benevolence in his appearance, marred only by the
insincerity of the fixed smile and by the hard glitter of those
restless and penetrating eyes. His voice was as smooth and suave
as his countenance, as he advanced with a plump little hand
extended, murmuring his regret for having missed us at his first
visit. Holmes disregarded the outstretched hand and looked at
him with a face of granite. Milverton's smile broadened, he
shrugged his shoulders removed his overcoat, folded it with
great deliberation over the back of a chair, and then took a seat.
"This gentleman?" said he, with a wave in my direction. "Is it
discreet? Is it right?"
"Dr. Watson is my friend and partner."
"Very good, Mr. Holmes. It is only in your client's interests
that I protested. The matter is so very delicate----"
"Dr. Watson has already heard of it."
"Then we can proceed to business. You say that you are acting
for Lady Eva. Has she empowered you to accept my terms?"
"What are your terms?"
"Seven thousand pounds."
"And the alternative?"
"My dear sir, it is painful for me to discuss it, but if the
money is not paid on the 14th, there certainly will be no
marriage on the 18th." His insufferable smile was more
complacent than ever.
Holmes thought for a little.
"You appear to me," he said, at last, "to be taking matters too
much for granted. I am, of course, familiar with the contents of
these letters. My client will certainly do what I may advise. I
shall counsel her to tell her future husband the whole story and
to trust to his generosity."
"You evidently do not know the Earl," said he.
From the baffled look upon Holmes's face, I could see clearly
that he did.
"What harm is there in the letters?" he asked.
"They are sprightly--very sprightly," Milverton answered. "The
lady was a charming correspondent. But I can assure you that the
Earl of Dovercourt would fail to appreciate them. However, since
you think otherwise, we will let it rest at that. It is purely
a matter of business. If you think that it is in the best
interests of your client that these letters should be placed in
the hands of the Earl, then you would indeed be foolish to pay
so large a sum of money to regain them." He rose and seized his
Holmes was gray with anger and mortification.
"Wait a little," he said. "You go too fast. We should certainly
make every effort to avoid scandal in so delicate a matter."
Milverton relapsed into his chair.
"I was sure that you would see it in that light," he purred.
"At the same time," Holmes continued, "Lady Eva is not a wealthy
woman. I assure you that two thousand pounds would be a drain
upon her resources, and that the sum you name is utterly beyond
her power. I beg, therefore, that you will moderate your
demands, and that you will return the letters at the price I
indicate, which is, I assure you, the highest that you can get."
Milverton's smile broadened and his eyes twinkled humorously.
"I am aware that what you say is true about the lady's
resources," said he. "At the same time you must admit that the
occasion of a lady's marriage is a very suitable time for her
friends and relatives to make some little effort upon her
behalf. They may hesitate as to an acceptable wedding present.
Let me assure them that this little bundle of letters would give
more joy than all the candelabra and butter-dishes in London."
"It is impossible," said Holmes.
"Dear me, dear me, how unfortunate!" cried Milverton, taking out
a bulky pocketbook. "I cannot help thinking that ladies are
ill-advised in not making an effort. Look at this!" He held up
a little note with a coat-of-arms upon the envelope. "That
belongs to--well, perhaps it is hardly fair to tell the name
until to-morrow morning. But at that time it will be in the
hands of the lady's husband. And all because she will not find
a beggarly sum which she could get by turning her diamonds into
paste. It IS such a pity! Now, you remember the sudden end of
the engagement between the Honourable Miss Miles and Colonel
Dorking? Only two days before the wedding, there was a paragraph
in the MORNING POST to say that it was all off. And why? It is
almost incredible, but the absurd sum of twelve hundred pounds
would have settled the whole question. Is it not pitiful? And
here I find you, a man of sense, boggling about terms, when your
client's future and honour are at stake. You surprise me, Mr. Holmes."
"What I say is true," Holmes answered. "The money cannot be
found. Surely it is better for you to take the substantial sum
which I offer than to ruin this woman's career, which can profit
you in no way?"
"There you make a mistake, Mr. Holmes. An exposure would profit
me indirectly to a considerable extent. I have eight or ten
similar cases maturing. If it was circulated among them that I
had made a severe example of the Lady Eva, I should find all of
them much more open to reason. You see my point?"
Holmes sprang from his chair.
"Get behind him, Watson! Don't let him out! Now, sir, let us see
the contents of that notebook."
Milverton had glided as quick as a rat to the side of the room
and stood with his back against the wall.
"Mr. Holmes, Mr. Holmes," he said, turning the front of his coat
and exhibiting the butt of a large revolver, which projected
from the inside pocket. "I have been expecting you to do
something original. This has been done so often, and what good
has ever come from it? I assure you that I am armed to the
teeth, and I am perfectly prepared to use my weapons, knowing
that the law will support me. Besides, your supposition that I
would bring the letters here in a notebook is entirely mistaken.
I would do nothing so foolish. And now, gentlemen, I have one or
two little interviews this evening, and it is a long drive to
Hampstead." He stepped forward, took up his coat, laid his hand
on his revolver, and turned to the door. I picked up a chair,
but Holmes shook his head, and I laid it down again. With bow,
a smile, and a twinkle, Milverton was out of the room, and a few
moments after we heard the slam of the carriage door and the
rattle of the wheels as he drove away.
Holmes sat motionless by the fire, his hands buried deep in his
trouser pockets, his chin sunk upon his breast, his eyes fixed
upon the glowing embers. For half an hour he was silent and
still. Then, with the gesture of a man who has taken his
decision, he sprang to his feet and passed into his bedroom. A
little later a rakish young workman, with a goatee beard and a
swagger, lit his clay pipe at the lamp before descending into
the street. "I'll be back some time, Watson," said he, and
vanished into the night. I understood that he had opened his
campaign against Charles Augustus Milverton, but I little dreamed
the strange shape which that campaign was destined to take.
For some days Holmes came and went at all hours in this attire,
but beyond a remark that his time was spent at Hampstead, and
that it was not wasted, I knew nothing of what he was doing. At
last, however, on a wild, tempestuous evening, when the wind
screamed and rattled against the windows, he returned from his
last expedition, and having removed his disguise he sat before
the fire and laughed heartily in his silent inward fashion.
"You would not call me a marrying man, Watson?"
"You'll be interested to hear that I'm engaged."
"My dear fellow! I congrat----"
"To Milverton's housemaid."
"Good heavens, Holmes!"
"I wanted information, Watson."
"Surely you have gone too far?"
"It was a most necessary step. I am a plumber with a rising
business, Escott, by name. I have walked out with her each
evening, and I have talked with her. Good heavens, those talks!
However, I have got all I wanted. I know Milverton's house as I
know the palm of my hand."
"But the girl, Holmes?"
He shrugged his shoulders.
"You can't help it, my dear Watson. You must play your cards as
best you can when such a stake is on the table. However, I
rejoice to say that I have a hated rival, who will certainly cut
me out the instant that my back is turned. What a splendid night
"You like this weather?"
"It suits my purpose. Watson, I mean to burgle Milverton's house
I had a catching of the breath, and my skin went cold at the
words, which were slowly uttered in a tone of concentrated
resolution. As a flash of lightning in the night shows up in an
instant every detail of a wild landscape, so at one glance I
seemed to see every possible result of such an action--the
detection, the capture, the honoured career ending in
irreparable failure and disgrace, my friend himself lying
at the mercy of the odious Milverton.
"For heaven's sake, Holmes, think what you are doing," I cried.
"My dear fellow, I have given it every consideration. I am never
precipitate in my actions, nor would I adopt so energetic and,
indeed, so dangerous a course, if any other were possible. Let
us look at the matter clearly and fairly. I suppose that you
will admit that the action is morally justifiable, though
technically criminal. To burgle his house is no more than to
forcibly take his pocketbook--an action in which you were
prepared to aid me."
I turned it over in my mind.
"Yes," I said, "it is morally justifiable so long as our object
is to take no articles save those which are used for an illegal
Exactly. Since it is morally justifiable, I have only to
consider the question of personal risk. Surely a gentleman
should not lay much stress upon this, when a lady is in most
desperate need of his help?"
"You will be in such a false position."
"Well, that is part of the risk. There is no other possible way
of regaining these letters. The unfortunate lady has not the
money, and there are none of her people in whom she could
confide. To-morrow is the last day of grace, and unless we can
get the letters to-night, this villain will be as good as his
word and will bring about her ruin. I must, therefore, abandon
my client to her fate or I must play this last card. Between
ourselves, Watson, it's a sporting duel between this fellow
Milverton and me. He had, as you saw, the best of the first
exchanges, but my self-respect and my reputation are concerned
to fight it to a finish."
"Well, I don't like it, but I suppose it must be," said I. "When
do we start?"
"You are not coming."
"Then you are not going," said I. "I give you my word of honour--
and I never broke it in my life--that I will take a cab straight
to the police-station and give you away, unless you let me share
this adventure with you."
"You can't help me."
"How do you know that? You can't tell what may happen. Anyway,
my resolution is taken. Other people besides you have
self-respect, and even reputations."
Holmes had looked annoyed, but his brow cleared, and he clapped
me on the shoulder.
"Well, well, my dear fellow, be it so. We have shared this same
room for some years, and it would be amusing if we ended by
sharing the same cell. You know, Watson, I don't mind confessing
to you that I have always had an idea that I would have made a
highly efficient criminal. This is the chance of my lifetime in
that direction. See here!" He took a neat little leather case
out of a drawer, and opening it he exhibited a number of shining
instruments. "This is a first-class, up-to-date burgling kit,
with nickel-plated jemmy, diamond-tipped glass-cutter, adaptable
keys, and every modern improvement which the march of
civilization demands. Here, too, is my dark lantern. Everything
is in order. Have you a pair of silent shoes?"
"I have rubber-soled tennis shoes."
"Excellent! And a mask?"
"I can make a couple out of black silk."
"I can see that you have a strong, natural turn for this sort of
thing. Very good, do you make the masks. We shall have some cold
supper before we start. It is now nine-thirty. At eleven we
shall drive as far as Church Row. It is a quarter of an hour's
walk from there to Appledore Towers. We shall be at work before
midnight. Milverton is a heavy sleeper, and retires punctually
at ten-thirty. With any luck we should be back here by two, with
the Lady Eva's letters in my pocket."
Holmes and I put on our dress-clothes, so that we might appear
to be two theatre-goers homeward bound. In Oxford Street we
picked up a hansom and drove to an address in Hampstead. Here we
paid off our cab, and with our great coats buttoned up, for it
was bitterly cold, and the wind seemed to blow through us, we
walked along the edge of the heath.
"It's a business that needs delicate treatment," said Holmes.
"These documents are contained in a safe in the fellow's study,
and the study is the ante-room of his bed-chamber. On the other
hand, like all these stout, little men who do themselves well,
he is a plethoric sleeper. Agatha--that's my fiancee--says it is
a joke in the servants' hall that it's impossible to wake the
master. He has a secretary who is devoted to his interests, and
never budges from the study all day. That's why we are going at
night. Then he has a beast of a dog which roams the garden. I
met Agatha late the last two evenings, and she locks the brute
up so as to give me a clear run. This is the house, this big one
in its own grounds. Through the gate--now to the right among the
laurels. We might put on our masks here, I think. You see, there
is not a glimmer of light in any of the windows, and everything
is working splendidly."
With our black silk face-coverings, which turned us into two of
the most truculent figures in London, we stole up to the silent,
gloomy house. A sort of tiled veranda extended along one side of
it, lined by several windows and two doors.
"That's his bedroom," Holmes whispered. "This door opens
straight into the study. It would suit us best, but it is bolted
as well as locked, and we should make too much noise getting in.
Come round here. There's a greenhouse which opens into the
The place was locked, but Holmes removed a circle of glass and
turned the key from the inside. An instant afterwards he had
closed the door behind us, and we had become felons in the eyes
of the law. The thick, warm air of the conservatory and the
rich, choking fragrance of exotic plants took us by the throat.
He seized my hand in the darkness and led me swiftly past banks
of shrubs which brushed against our faces. Holmes had remarkable
powers, carefully cultivated, of seeing in the dark. Still
holding my hand in one of his, he opened a door, and I was
vaguely conscious that we had entered a large room in which a
cigar had been smoked not long before. He felt his way among the
furniture, opened another door, and closed it behind us. Putting
out my hand I felt several coats hanging from the wall, and I
understood that I was in a passage. We passed along it and
Holmes very gently opened a door upon the right-hand side.
Something rushed out at us and my heart sprang into my mouth,
but I could have laughed when I realized that it was the cat. A
fire was burning in this new room, and again the air was heavy
with tobacco smoke. Holmes entered on tiptoe, waited for me to
follow, and then very gently closed the door. We were in
Milverton's study, and a portiere at the farther side showed the
entrance to his bedroom.
It was a good fire, and the room was illuminated by it. Near the
door I saw the gleam of an electric switch, but it was
unnecessary, even if it had been safe, to turn it on. At one
side of the fireplace was a heavy curtain which covered the bay
window we had seen from outside. On the other side was the door
which communicated with the veranda. A desk stood in the centre,
with a turning-chair of shining red leather. Opposite was a
large bookcase, with a marble bust of Athene on the top. In the
corner, between the bookcase and the wall, there stood a tall,
green safe, the firelight flashing back from the polished brass
knobs upon its face. Holmes stole across and looked at it. Then
he crept to the door of the bedroom, and stood with slanting
head listening intently. No sound came from within. Meanwhile it
had struck me that it would be wise to secure our retreat
through the outer door, so I examined it. To my amazement, it
was neither locked nor bolted. I touched Holmes on the arm, and
he turned his masked face in that direction. I saw him start,
and he was evidently as surprised as I.
"I don't like it," he whispered, putting his lips to my very ear.
"I can't quite make it out. Anyhow, we have no time to lose."
"Can I do anything?"
"Yes, stand by the door. If you hear anyone come, bolt it on the
inside, and we can get away as we came. If they come the other
way, we can get through the door if our job is done, or hide
behind these window curtains if it is not. Do you understand?"
I nodded, and stood by the door. My first feeling of fear had
passed away, and I thrilled now with a keener zest than I had
ever enjoyed when we were the defenders of the law instead of
its defiers. The high object of our mission, the consciousness
that it was unselfish and chivalrous, the villainous character
of our opponent, all added to the sporting interest of the
adventure. Far from feeling guilty, I rejoiced and exulted in
our dangers. With a glow of admiration I watched Holmes
unrolling his case of instruments and choosing his tool with the
calm, scientific accuracy of a surgeon who performs a delicate
operation. I knew that the opening of safes was a particular
hobby with him, and I understood the joy which it gave him to be
confronted with this green and gold monster, the dragon which
held in its maw the reputations of many fair ladies. Turning up
the cuffs of his dress-coat--he had placed his overcoat on a
chair--Holmes laid out two drills, a jemmy, and several skeleton
keys. I stood at the centre door with my eyes glancing at each
of the others, ready for any emergency, though, indeed, my plans
were somewhat vague as to what I should do if we were
interrupted. For half an hour, Holmes worked with concentrated
energy, laying down one tool, picking up another, handling each
with the strength and delicacy of the trained mechanic. Finally
I heard a click, the broad green door swung open, and inside I
had a glimpse of a number of paper packets, each tied, sealed,
and inscribed. Holmes picked one out, but it was as hard to read
by the flickering fire, and he drew out his little dark lantern,
for it was too dangerous, with Milverton in the next room, to
switch on the electric light. Suddenly I saw him halt, listen
intently, and then in an instant he had swung the door of the
safe to, picked up his coat, stuffed his tools into the pockets,
and darted behind the window curtain, motioning me to do the same.
It was only when I had joined him there that I heard what had
alarmed his quicker senses. There was a noise somewhere within
the house. A door slammed in the distance. Then a confused, dull
murmur broke itself into the measured thud of heavy footsteps
rapidly approaching. They were in the passage outside the room.
They paused at the door. The door opened. There was a sharp
snick as the electric light was turned on. The door closed once
more, and the pungent reek of a strong cigar was borne to our
nostrils. Then the footsteps continued backward and forward,
backward and forward, within a few yards of us. Finally there
was a creak from a chair, and the footsteps ceased. Then a key
clicked in a lock, and I heard the rustle of papers.
So far I had not dared to look out, but now I gently parted the
division of the curtains in front of me and peeped through. From
the pressure of Holmes's shoulder against mine, I knew that he
was sharing my observations. Right in front of us, and almost
within our reach, was the broad, rounded back of Milverton. It
was evident that we had entirely miscalculated his movements,
that he had never been to his bedroom, but that he had been
sitting up in some smoking or billiard room in the farther wing
of the house, the windows of which we had not seen. His broad,
grizzled head, with its shining patch of baldness, was in the
immediate foreground of our vision. He was leaning far back in
the red leather chair, his legs outstretched, a long, black
cigar projecting at an angle from his mouth. He wore a
semi-military smoking jacket, claret-coloured, with a black
velvet collar. In his hand he held a long, legal document which
he was reading in an indolent fashion, blowing rings of tobacco
smoke from his lips as he did so. There was no promise of a
speedy departure in his composed bearing and his comfortable
I felt Holmes's hand steal into mine and give me a reassuring
shake, as if to say that the situation was within his powers,
and that he was easy in his mind. I was not sure whether he had
seen what was only too obvious from my position, that the door
of the safe was imperfectly closed, and that Milverton might at
any moment observe it. In my own mind I had determined that if
I were sure, from the rigidity of his gaze, that it had caught
his eye, I would at once spring out, throw my great coat over
his head, pinion him, and leave the rest to Holmes. But
Milverton never looked up. He was languidly interested by the
papers in his hand, and page after page was turned as he
followed the argument of the lawyer. At least, I thought, when
he has finished the document and the cigar he will go to his
room, but before he had reached the end of either, there came a
remarkable development, which turned our thoughts into quite
Several times I had observed that Milverton looked at his watch,
and once he had risen and sat down again, with a gesture of
impatience. The idea, however, that he might have an appointment
at so strange an hour never occurred to me until a faint sound
reached my ears from the veranda outside. Milverton dropped his
papers and sat rigid in his chair. The sound was repeated, and
then there came a gentle tap at the door. Milverton rose and
"Well," said he, curtly, "you are nearly half an hour late."
So this was the explanation of the unlocked door and of the
nocturnal vigil of Milverton. There was the gentle rustle of a
woman's dress. I had closed the slit between the curtains as
Milverton's face had turned in our direction, but now I ventured
very carefully to open it once more. He had resumed his seat,
the cigar still projecting at an insolent angle from the corner
of his mouth. In front of him, in the full glare of the electric
light, there stood a tall, slim, dark woman, a veil over her
face, a mantle drawn round her chin. Her breath came quick and
fast, and every inch of the lithe figure was quivering with
"Well," said Milverton, "you made me lose a good night's rest,
my dear. I hope you'll prove worth it. You couldn't come any
The woman shook her head.
"Well, if you couldn't you couldn't. If the Countess is a hard
mistress, you have your chance to get level with her now. Bless
the girl, what are you shivering about? That's right. Pull
yourself together. Now, let us get down to business." He took a
notebook from the drawer of his desk. "You say that you have
five letters which compromise the Countess d'Albert. You want to
sell them. I want to buy them. So far so good. It only remains
to fix a price. I should want to inspect the letters, of course.
If they are really good specimens--Great heavens, is it you?"
The woman, without a word, had raised her veil and dropped the
mantle from her chin. It was a dark, handsome, clear-cut face
which confronted Milverton--a face with a curved nose, strong,
dark eyebrows shading hard, glittering eyes, and a straight,
thin-lipped mouth set in a dangerous smile.
"It is I," she said, "the woman whose life you have ruined."
Milverton laughed, but fear vibrated in his voice. "You were so
very obstinate," said he. "Why did you drive me to such
extremities? I assure you I wouldn't hurt a fly of my own
accord, but every man has his business, and what was I to do? I
put the price well within your means. You would not pay."
"So you sent the letters to my husband, and he--the noblest
gentleman that ever lived, a man whose boots I was never worthy
to lace--he broke his gallant heart and died. You remember that
last night, when I came through that door, I begged and prayed
you for mercy, and you laughed in my face as you are trying to
laugh now, only your coward heart cannot keep your lips from
twitching. Yes, you never thought to see me here again, but it
was that night which taught me how I could meet you face to
face, and alone. Well, Charles Milverton, what have you to say?"
"Don't imagine that you can bully me," said he, rising to his
feet. "I have only to raise my voice and I could call my
servants and have you arrested. But I will make allowance for
your natural anger. Leave the room at once as you came, and I
will say no more."
The woman stood with her hand buried in her bosom, and the same
deadly smile on her thin lips.
"You will ruin no more lives as you have ruined mine. You will
wring no more hearts as you wrung mine. I will free the world of
a poisonous thing. Take that, you hound--and that!--and that!--
She had drawn a little gleaming revolver, and emptied barrel
after barrel into Milverton's body, the muzzle within two feet
of his shirt front. He shrank away and then fell forward upon
the table, coughing furiously and clawing among the papers. Then
he staggered to his feet, received another shot, and rolled upon
the floor. "You've done me," he cried, and lay still. The woman
looked at him intently, and ground her heel into his upturned
face. She looked again, but there was no sound or movement. I
heard a sharp rustle, the night air blew into the heated room,
and the avenger was gone.
No interference upon our part could have saved the man from his
fate, but, as the woman poured bullet after bullet into
Milverton's shrinking body I was about to spring out, when I
felt Holmes's cold, strong grasp upon my wrist. I understood the
whole argument of that firm, restraining grip--that it was no
affair of ours, that justice had overtaken a villain, that we
had our own duties and our own objects, which were not to be
lost sight of. But hardly had the woman rushed from the room
when Holmes, with swift, silent steps, was over at the other
door. He turned the key in the lock. At the same instant we
heard voices in the house and the sound of hurrying feet. The
revolver shots had roused the household. With perfect coolness
Holmes slipped across to the safe, filled his two arms with
bundles of letters, and poured them all into the fire. Again and
again he did it, until the safe was empty. Someone turned the
handle and beat upon the outside of the door. Holmes looked
swiftly round. The letter which had been the messenger of death
for Milverton lay, all mottled with his blood, upon the table.
Holmes tossed it in among the blazing papers. Then he drew the
key from the outer door, passed through after me, and locked it
on the outside. "This way, Watson," said he, "we can scale the
garden wall in this direction."
I could not have believed that an alarm could have spread so
swiftly. Looking back, the huge house was one blaze of light.
The front door was open, and figures were rushing down the
drive. The whole garden was alive with people, and one fellow
raised a view-halloa as we emerged from the veranda and followed
hard at our heels. Holmes seemed to know the grounds perfectly,
and he threaded his way swiftly among a plantation of small
trees, I close at his heels, and our foremost pursuer panting
behind us. It was a six-foot wall which barred our path, but he
sprang to the top and over. As I did the same I felt the hand of
the man behind me grab at my ankle, but I kicked myself free and
scrambled over a grass-strewn coping. I fell upon my face among
some bushes, but Holmes had me on my feet in an instant, and
together we dashed away across the huge expanse of Hampstead
Heath. We had run two miles, I suppose, before Holmes at last
halted and listened intently. All was absolute silence behind
us. We had shaken off our pursuers and were safe.
We had breakfasted and were smoking our morning pipe on the day
after the remarkable experience which I have recorded, when Mr.
Lestrade, of Scotland Yard, very solemn and impressive, was
ushered into our modest sitting-room.
"Good-morning, Mr. Holmes," said he; "good-morning. May I ask if
you are very busy just now?"
"Not too busy to listen to you."
"I thought that, perhaps, if you had nothing particular on hand,
you might care to assist us in a most remarkable case, which
occurred only last night at Hampstead."
"Dear me!" said Holmes. "What was that?"
"A murder--a most dramatic and remarkable murder. I know how
keen you are upon these things, and I would take it as a great
favour if you would step down to Appledore Towers, and give us
the benefit of your advice. It is no ordinary crime. We have had
our eyes upon this Mr. Milverton for some time, and, between
ourselves, he was a bit of a villain. He is known to have held
papers which he used for blackmailing purposes. These papers
have all been burned by the murderers. No article of value was
taken, as it is probable that the criminals were men of good
position, whose sole object was to prevent social exposure."
"Criminals?" said Holmes. "Plural?"
"Yes, there were two of them. They were as nearly as possible
captured red-handed. We have their footmarks, we have their
description, it's ten to one that we trace them. The first
fellow was a bit too active, but the second was caught by the
under-gardener, and only got away after a struggle. He was a
middle-sized, strongly built man--square jaw, thick neck,
moustache, a mask over his eyes."
"That's rather vague," said Sherlock Holmes. "My, it might be a
description of Watson!"
"It's true," said the inspector, with amusement. "It might be a
description of Watson."
"Well, I'm afraid I can't help you, Lestrade," said Holmes. "The
fact is that I knew this fellow Milverton, that I considered him
one of the most dangerous men in London, and that I think there
are certain crimes which the law cannot touch, and which
therefore, to some extent, justify private revenge. No, it's no
use arguing. I have made up my mind. My sympathies are with the
criminals rather than with the victim, and I will not handle
Holmes had not said one word to me about the tragedy which we
had witnessed, but I observed all the morning that he was in his
most thoughtful mood, and he gave me the impression, from his
vacant eyes and his abstracted manner, of a man who is striving
to recall something to his memory. We were in the middle of our
lunch, when he suddenly sprang to his feet. "By Jove, Watson,
I've got it!" he cried. "Take your hat! Come with me!" He
hurried at his top speed down Baker Street and along Oxford
Street, until we had almost reached Regent Circus. Here, on the
left hand, there stands a shop window filled with photographs of
the celebrities and beauties of the day. Holmes's eyes fixed
themselves upon one of them, and following his gaze I saw the
picture of a regal and stately lady in Court dress, with a high
diamond tiara upon her noble head. I looked at that delicately
curved nose, at the marked eyebrows, at the straight mouth, and
the strong little chin beneath it. Then I caught my breath as I
read the time-honoured title of the great nobleman and statesman
whose wife she had been. My eyes met those of Holmes, and he put
his finger to his lips as we turned away from the window.
THE ADVENTURE OF THE SIX NAPOLEONS
It was no very unusual thing for Mr. Lestrade, of Scotland Yard,
to look in upon us of an evening, and his visits were welcome to
Sherlock Holmes, for they enabled him to keep in touch with all
that was going on at the police headquarters. In return for the
news which Lestrade would bring, Holmes was always ready to
listen with attention to the details of any case upon which the
detective was engaged, and was able occasionally, without any
active interference, to give some hint or suggestion drawn from
his own vast knowledge and experience.
On this particular evening, Lestrade had spoken of the weather
and the newspapers. Then he had fallen silent, puffing
thoughtfully at his cigar. Holmes looked keenly at him.
"Anything remarkable on hand?" he asked.
"Oh, no, Mr. Holmes--nothing very particular."
"Then tell me about it."
"Well, Mr. Holmes, there is no use denying that there IS
something on my mind. And yet it is such an absurd business,
that I hesitated to bother you about it. On the other hand,
although it is trivial, it is undoubtedly queer, and I know that
you have a taste for all that is out of the common. But, in my
opinion, it comes more in Dr. Watson's line than ours."
"Disease?" said I.
"Madness, anyhow. And a queer madness, too. You wouldn't think
there was anyone living at this time of day who had such a
hatred of Napoleon the First that he would break any image of
him that he could see."
Holmes sank back in his chair.
"That's no business of mine," said he.
"Exactly. That's what I said. But then, when the man commits
burglary in order to break images which are not his own, that
brings it away from the doctor and on to the policeman."
Holmes sat up again.
"Burglary! This is more interesting. Let me hear the details."
Lestrade took out his official notebook and refreshed his memory
from its pages.
"The first case reported was four days ago," said he. "It was at
the shop of Morse Hudson, who has a place for the sale of
pictures and statues in the Kennington Road. The assistant had
left the front shop for an instant, when he heard a crash, and
hurrying in he found a plaster bust of Napoleon, which stood
with several other works of art upon the counter, lying shivered
into fragments. He rushed out into the road, but, although
several passers-by declared that they had noticed a man run out
of the shop, he could neither see anyone nor could he find any
means of identifying the rascal. It seemed to be one of those
senseless acts of Hooliganism which occur from time to time, and
it was reported to the constable on the beat as such. The
plaster cast was not worth more than a few shillings, and the
whole affair appeared to be too childish for any particular
"The second case, however, was more serious, and also more
singular. It occurred only last night.
"In Kennington Road, and within a few hundred yards of Morse
Hudson's shop, there lives a well-known medical practitioner,
named Dr. Barnicot, who has one of the largest practices upon
the south side of the Thames. His residence and principal
consulting-room is at Kennington Road, but he has a branch
surgery and dispensary at Lower Brixton Road, two miles away.
This Dr. Barnicot is an enthusiastic admirer of Napoleon, and
his house is full of books, pictures, and relics of the French
Emperor. Some little time ago he purchased from Morse Hudson two
duplicate plaster casts of the famous head of Napoleon by the
French sculptor, Devine. One of these he placed in his hall in
the house at Kennington Road, and the other on the mantelpiece
of the surgery at Lower Brixton. Well, when Dr. Barnicot came
down this morning he was astonished to find that his house had
been burgled during the night, but that nothing had been taken
save the plaster head from the hall. It had been carried out and
had been dashed savagely against the garden wall, under which
its splintered fragments were discovered."
Holmes rubbed his hands.
"This is certainly very novel," said he.
"I thought it would please you. But I have not got to the end
yet. Dr. Barnicot was due at his surgery at twelve o'clock, and
you can imagine his amazement when, on arriving there, he found
that the window had been opened in the night and that the broken
pieces of his second bust were strewn all over the room. It had
been smashed to atoms where it stood. In neither case were there
any signs which could give us a clue as to the criminal or
lunatic who had done the mischief. Now, Mr. Holmes, you have got
"They are singular, not to say grotesque," said Holmes. "May I
ask whether the two busts smashed in Dr. Barnicot's rooms were
the exact duplicates of the one which was destroyed in Morse
"They were taken from the same mould."
"Such a fact must tell against the theory that the man who
breaks them is influenced by any general hatred of Napoleon.
Considering how many hundreds of statues of the great Emperor
must exist in London, it is too much to suppose such a
coincidence as that a promiscuous iconoclast should chance to
begin upon three specimens of the same bust."
"Well, I thought as you do," said Lestrade. "On the other hand,
this Morse Hudson is the purveyor of busts in that part of
London, and these three were the only ones which had been in his
shop for years. So, although, as you say, there are many
hundreds of statues in London, it is very probable that these
three were the only ones in that district. Therefore, a local
fanatic would begin with them. What do you think, Dr. Watson?"
"There are no limits to the possibilities of monomania," I
answered. "There is the condition which the modern French
psychologists have called the `IDEE FIXE,' which may be trifling
in character, and accompanied by complete sanity in every other
way. A man who had read deeply about Napoleon, or who had
possibly received some hereditary family injury through the
great war, might conceivably form such an IDEE FIXE and under
its influence be capable of any fantastic outrage."
"That won't do, my dear Watson," said Holmes, shaking his head,
"for no amount of IDEE FIXE would enable your interesting
monomaniac to find out where these busts were situated."
"Well, how do YOU explain it?"
"I don't attempt to do so. I would only observe that there is a
certain method in the gentleman's eccentric proceedings. For
example, in Dr. Barnicot's hall, where a sound might arouse the
family, the bust was taken outside before being broken, whereas
in the surgery, where there was less danger of an alarm, it was
smashed where it stood. The affair seems absurdly trifling, and
yet I dare call nothing trivial when I reflect that some of my
most classic cases have had the least promising commencement.
You will remember, Watson, how the dreadful business of the
Abernetty family was first brought to my notice by the depth
which the parsley had sunk into the butter upon a hot day. I
can't afford, therefore, to smile at your three broken busts,
Lestrade, and I shall be very much obliged to you if you will
let me hear of any fresh development of so singular a chain of
The development for which my friend had asked came in a quicker
and an infinitely more tragic form than he could have imagined.
I was still dressing in my bedroom next morning, when there was
a tap at the door and Holmes entered, a telegram in his hand. He
read it aloud:
"Come instantly, 131 Pitt Street, Kensington.
"What is it, then?" I asked.
"Don't know--may be anything. But I suspect it is the sequel of
the story of the statues. In that case our friend the
image-breaker has begun operations in another quarter of London.
There's coffee on the table, Watson, and I have a cab at the door."
In half an hour we had reached Pitt Street, a quiet little
backwater just beside one of the briskest currents of London
life. No. 131 was one of a row, all flat-chested, respectable,
and most unromantic dwellings. As we drove up, we found the
railings in front of the house lined by a curious crowd. Holmes
"By George! It's attempted murder at the least. Nothing less
will hold the London message-boy. There's a deed of violence
indicated in that fellow's round shoulders and outstretched
neck. What's this, Watson? The top steps swilled down and the
other ones dry. Footsteps enough, anyhow! Well, well, there's
Lestrade at the front window, and we shall soon know all about it."
The official received us with a very grave face and showed us
into a sitting-room, where an exceedingly unkempt and agitated
elderly man, clad in a flannel dressing-gown, was pacing up and
down. He was introduced to us as the owner of the house--Mr.
Horace Harker, of the Central Press Syndicate.
"It's the Napoleon bust business again," said Lestrade. "You
seemed interested last night, Mr. Holmes, so I thought perhaps
you would be glad to be present now that the affair has taken a
very much graver turn."
"What has it turned to, then?"
"To murder. Mr. Harker, will you tell these gentlemen exactly
what has occurred?"
The man in the dressing-gown turned upon us with a most
"It's an extraordinary thing," said he, "that all my life I have
been collecting other people's news, and now that a real piece
of news has come my own way I am so confused and bothered that
I can't put two words together. If I had come in here as a
journalist, I should have interviewed myself and had two columns
in every evening paper. As it is, I am giving away valuable copy
by telling my story over and over to a string of different
people, and I can make no use of it myself. However, I've heard
your name, Mr. Sherlock Holmes, and if you'll only explain this
queer business, I shall be paid for my trouble in telling you
Holmes sat down and listened.
"It all seems to centre round that bust of Napoleon which I
bought for this very room about four months ago. I picked it up
cheap from Harding Brothers, two doors from the High Street
Station. A great deal of my journalistic work is done at night,
and I often write until the early morning. So it was to-day. I
was sitting in my den, which is at the back of the top of the
house, about three o'clock, when I was convinced that I heard
some sounds downstairs. I listened, but they were not repeated,
and I concluded that they came from outside. Then suddenly,
about five minutes later, there came a most horrible yell--the
most dreadful sound, Mr. Holmes, that ever I heard. It will ring
in my ears as long as I live. I sat frozen with horror for a
minute or two. Then I seized the poker and went downstairs. When
I entered this room I found the window wide open, and I at once
observed that the bust was gone from the mantelpiece. Why any
burglar should take such a thing passes my understanding, for it
was only a plaster cast and of no real value whatever.
"You can see for yourself that anyone going out through that
open window could reach the front doorstep by taking a long
stride. This was clearly what the burglar had done, so I went
round and opened the door. Stepping out into the dark, I nearly
fell over a dead man, who was lying there. I ran back for a
light and there was the poor fellow, a great gash in his throat
and the whole place swimming in blood. He lay on his back, his
knees drawn up, and his mouth horribly open. I shall see him in
my dreams. I had just time to blow on my police-whistle, and
then I must have fainted, for I knew nothing more until I found
the policeman standing over me in the hall."
"Well, who was the murdered man?" asked Holmes.
"There's nothing to show who he was," said Lestrade. "You shall
see the body at the mortuary, but we have made nothing of it up
to now. He is a tall man, sunburned, very powerful, not more
than thirty. He is poorly dressed, and yet does not appear to be
a labourer. A horn-handled clasp knife was lying in a pool of
blood beside him. Whether it was the weapon which did the deed,
or whether it belonged to the dead man, I do not know. There was
no name on his clothing, and nothing in his pockets save an
apple, some string, a shilling map of London, and a photograph.
Here it is."
It was evidently taken by a snapshot from a small camera. It
represented an alert, sharp-featured simian man, with thick
eyebrows and a very peculiar projection of the lower part of the
face, like the muzzle of a baboon.
"And what became of the bust?" asked Holmes, after a careful
study of this picture.
"We had news of it just before you came. It has been found in
the front garden of an empty house in Campden House Road. It was
broken into fragments. I am going round now to see it. Will you come?"
"Certainly. I must just take one look round." He examined the
carpet and the window. "The fellow had either very long legs or
was a most active man," said he. "With an area beneath, it was
no mean feat to reach that window ledge and open that window.
Getting back was comparatively simple. Are you coming with us to
see the remains of your bust, Mr. Harker?"
The disconsolate journalist had seated himself at a
"I must try and make something of it," said he, "though I have
no doubt that the first editions of the evening papers are out
already with full details. It's like my luck! You remember when
the stand fell at Doncaster? Well, I was the only journalist in
the stand, and my journal the only one that had no account of
it, for I was too shaken to write it. And now I'll be too late
with a murder done on my own doorstep."
As we left the room, we heard his pen travelling shrilly over
The spat where the fragments of the bust had been found was only
a few hundred yards away. For the first time our eyes rested
upon this presentment of the great emperor, which seemed to
raise such frantic and destructive hatred in the mind of the
unknown. It lay scattered, in splintered shards, upon the grass.
Holmes picked up several of them and examined them carefully. I
was convinced, from his intent face and his purposeful manner,
that at last he was upon a clue.
"Well?" asked Lestrade.
Holmes shrugged his shoulders.
"We have a long way to go yet," said he. "And yet--and yet--
well, we have some suggestive facts to act upon. The possession
of this trifling bust was worth more, in the eyes of this
strange criminal, than a human life. That is one point. Then
there is the singular fact that he did not break it in the
house, or immediately outside the house, if to break it was his
"He was rattled and bustled by meeting this other fellow. He
hardly knew what he was doing."
"Well, that's likely enough. But I wish to call your attention
very particularly to the position of this house, in the garden
of which the bust was destroyed."
Lestrade looked about him.
"It was an empty house, and so he knew that he would not be
disturbed in the garden."
"Yes, but there is another empty house farther up the street
which he must have passed before he came to this one. Why did he
not break it there, since it is evident that every yard that he
carried it increased the risk of someone meeting him?"
"I give it up," said Lestrade.
Holmes pointed to the street lamp above our heads.
"He could see what he was doing here, and he could not there.
That was his reason."
"By Jove! that's true," said the detective. "Now that I come to
think of it, Dr. Barnicot's bust was broken not far from his red
lamp. Well, Mr. Holmes, what are we to do with that fact?"
"To remember it--to docket it. We may come on something later
which will bear upon it. What steps do you propose to take now,
"The most practical way of getting at it, in my opinion, is to
identify the dead man. There should be no difficulty about that.
When we have found who he is and who his associates are, we
should have a good start in learning what he was doing in Pitt
Street last night, and who it was who met him and killed him on
the doorstep of Mr. Horace Harker. Don't you think so?"
"No doubt; and yet it is not quite the way in which I should
approach the case."
"What would you do then?"
"Oh, you must not let me influence you in any way. I suggest
that you go on your line and I on mine. We can compare notes
afterwards, and each will supplement the other."
"Very good," said Lestrade.
"If you are going back to Pitt Street, you might see Mr. Horace
Harker. Tell him for me that I have quite made up my mind, and
that it is certain that a dangerous homicidal lunatic, with
Napoleonic delusions, was in his house last night. It will be
useful for his article."
"You don't seriously believe that?"
"Don't I? Well, perhaps I don't. But I am sure that it will
interest Mr. Horace Harker and the subscribers of the Central
Press Syndicate. Now, Watson, I think that we shall find that we
have a long and rather complex day's work before us. I should be
glad, Lestrade, if you could make it convenient to meet us at
Baker Street at six o'clock this evening. Until then I should
like to keep this photograph, found in the dead man's pocket. It
is possible that I may have to ask your company and assistance
upon a small expedition which will have be undertaken to-night,
if my chain of reasoning should prove to be correct. Until then
good-bye and good luck!"
Sherlock Holmes and I walked together to the High Street, where
we stopped at the shop of Harding Brothers, whence the bust had
been purchased. A young assistant informed us that Mr. Harding
would be absent until afternoon, and that he was himself a
newcomer, who could give us no information. Holmes's face showed
his disappointment and annoyance.
"Well, well, we can't expect to have it all our own way,
Watson," he said, at last. "We must come back in the afternoon,
if Mr. Harding will not be here until then. I am, as you have no
doubt surmised, endeavouring to trace these busts to their
source, in order to find if there is not something peculiar
which may account for their remarkable fate. Let us make for Mr.
Morse Hudson, of the Kennington Road, and see if he can throw
any light upon the problem."
A drive of an hour brought us to the picture-dealer's
establishment. He was a small, stout man with a red face and a
"Yes, sir. On my very counter, sir," said he. "What we pay rates
and taxes for I don't know, when any ruffian can come in and
break one's goods. Yes, sir, it was I who sold Dr. Barnicot his
two statues. Disgraceful, sir! A Nihilist plot--that's what I
make it. No one but an anarchist would go about breaking
statues. Red republicans--that's what I call 'em. Who did I get
the statues from? I don't see what that has to do with it. Well,
if you really want to know, I got them from Gelder & Co., in
Church Street, Stepney. They are a well-known house in the
trade, and have been this twenty years. How many had I? Three--
two and one are three--two of Dr. Barnicot's, and one smashed in
broad daylight on my own counter. Do I know that photograph? No,
I don't. Yes, I do, though. Why, it's Beppo. He was a kind of
Italian piece-work man, who made himself useful in the shop. He
could carve a bit, and gild and frame, and do odd jobs. The
fellow left me last week, and I've heard nothing of him since.
No, I don't know where he came from nor where he went to. I had
nothing against him while he was here. He was gone two days
before the bust was smashed."
"Well, that's all we could reasonably expect from Morse Hudson,"
said Holmes, as we emerged from the shop. We have this Beppo as
a common factor, both in Kennington and in Kensington, so that
is worth a ten-mile drive. Now, Watson, let us make for Gelder
& Co., of Stepney, the source and origin of the busts. I shall
be surprised if we don't get some help down there."
In rapid succession we passed through the fringe of fashionable
London, hotel London, theatrical London, literary London,
commercial London, and, finally, maritime London, till we came
to a riverside city of a hundred thousand souls, where the
tenement houses swelter and reek with the outcasts of Europe.
Here, in a broad thoroughfare, once the abode of wealthy City
merchants, we found the sculpture works for which we searched.
Outside was a considerable yard full of monumental masonry.
Inside was a large room in which fifty workers were carving or
moulding. The manager, a big blond German, received us civilly
and gave a clear answer to all Holmes's questions. A reference
to his books showed that hundreds of casts had been taken from
a marble copy of Devine's head of Napoleon, but that the three
which had been sent to Morse Hudson a year or so before had been
half of a batch of six, the other three being sent to Harding
Brothers, of Kensington. There was no reason why those six
should be different from any of the other casts. He could
suggest no possible cause why anyone should wish to destroy
them--in fact, he laughed at the idea. Their wholesale price was
six shillings, but the retailer would get twelve or more. The
cast was taken in two moulds from each side of the face, and
then these two profiles of plaster of Paris were joined together
to make the complete bust. The work was usually done by
Italians, in the room we were in. When finished, the busts were
put on a table in the passage to dry, and afterwards stored.
That was all he could tell us.
But the production of the photograph had a remarkable effect
upon the manager. His face flushed with anger, and his brows
knotted over his blue Teutonic eyes.
"Ah, the rascal!" he cried. "Yes, indeed, I know him very well.
This has always been a respectable establishment, and the only
time that we have ever had the police in it was over this very
fellow. It was more than a year ago now. He knifed another
Italian in the street, and then he came to the works with the
police on his heels, and he was taken here. Beppo was his name--
his second name I never knew. Serve me right for engaging a man
with such a face. But he was a good workman--one of the best."
"What did he get?"
"The man lived and he got off with a year. I have no doubt he is
out now, but he has not dared to show his nose here. We have a
cousin of his here, and I daresay he could tell you where he is."
"No, no," cried Holmes, "not a word to the cousin--not a word,
I beg of you. The matter is very important, and the farther I go
with it, the more important it seems to grow. When you referred
in your ledger to the sale of those casts I observed that the
date was June 3rd of last year. Could you give me the date when
Beppo was arrested?"
"I could tell you roughly by the pay-list," the manager
answered. "Yes," he continued, after some turning over of pages,
"he was paid last on May 20th."
"Thank you," said Holmes. "I don't think that I need intrude
upon your time and patience any more." With a last word of
caution that he should say nothing as to our researches, we
turned our faces westward once more.
The afternoon was far advanced before we were able to snatch a
hasty luncheon at a restaurant. A news-bill at the entrance
announced "Kensington Outrage. Murder by a Madman," and the
contents of the paper showed that Mr. Horace Harker had got his
account into print after all. Two columns were occupied with a
highly sensational and flowery rendering of the whole incident.
Holmes propped it against the cruet-stand and read it while he
ate. Once or twice he chuckled.
"This is all right, Watson," said he. "Listen to this:
"It is satisfactory to know that there can be no difference of
opinion upon this case, since Mr. Lestrade, one of the most
experienced members of the official force, and Mr. Sherlock
Holmes, the well known consulting expert, have each come to the
conclusion that the grotesque series of incidents, which have
ended in so tragic a fashion, arise from lunacy rather than from
deliberate crime. No explanation save mental aberration can
cover the facts.
The Press, Watson, is a most valuable institution, if you only
know how to use it. And now, if you have quite finished, we will
hark back to Kensington and see what the manager of Harding
Brothers has to say on the matter."
The founder of that great emporium proved to be a brisk, crisp
little person, very dapper and quick, with a clear head and a
"Yes, sir, I have already read the account in the evening
papers. Mr. Horace Harker is a customer of ours. We supplied him
with the bust some months ago. We ordered three busts of that
sort from Gelder & Co., of Stepney. They are all sold now. To
whom? Oh, I daresay by consulting our sales book we could very
easily tell you. Yes, we have the entries here. One to Mr.
Harker you see, and one to Mr. Josiah Brown, of Laburnum Lodge,
Laburnum Vale, Chiswick, and one to Mr. Sandeford, of Lower Grove
Road, Reading. No, I have never seen this face which you show me
in the photograph. You would hardly forget it, would you, sir,
for I've seldom seen an uglier. Have we any Italians on the
staff? Yes, sir, we have several among our workpeople and
cleaners. I daresay they might get a peep at that sales book if
they wanted to. There is no particular reason for keeping a
watch upon that book. Well, well, it's a very strange business,
and I hope that you will let me know if anything comes of your
Holmes had taken several notes during Mr. Harding's evidence,
and I could see that he was thoroughly satisfied by the turn
which affairs were taking. He made no remark, however, save
that, unless we hurried, we should be late for our appointment
with Lestrade. Sure enough, when we reached Baker Street the
detective was already there, and we found him pacing up and down
in a fever of impatience. His look of importance showed that his
day's work had not been in vain.
"Well?" he asked. "What luck, Mr. Holmes?"
"We have had a very busy day, and not entirely a wasted one," my
friend explained. "We have seen both the retailers and also the
wholesale manufacturers. I can trace each of the busts now from
"The busts" cried Lestrade. "Well, well, you have your own
methods, Mr. Sherlock Holmes, and it is not for me to say a word
against them, but I think I have done a better day's work than
you. I have identified the dead man."
"You don't say so?"
"And found a cause for the crime."
"We have an inspector who makes a specialty of Saffron Hill and
the Italian Quarter. Well, this dead man had some Catholic
emblem round his neck, and that, along with his colour, made me
think he was from the South. Inspector Hill knew him the moment
he caught sight of him. His name is Pietro Venucci, from Naples,
and he is one of the greatest cut-throats in London. He is
connected with the Mafia, which, as you know, is a secret
political society, enforcing its decrees by murder. Now, you see
how the affair begins to clear up. The other fellow is probably
an Italian also, and a member of the Mafia. He has broken the
rules in some fashion. Pietro is set upon his track. Probably
the photograph we found in his pocket is the man himself, so
that he may not knife the wrong person. He dogs the fellow, he
sees him enter a house, he waits outside for him, and in the
scuffle he receives his own death-wound. How is that, Mr.
Holmes clapped his hands approvingly.
"Excellent, Lestrade, excellent!" he cried. "But I didn't quite
follow your explanation of the destruction of the busts."
"The busts! You never can get those busts out of your head.
After all, that is nothing; petty larceny, six months at the
most. It is the murder that we are really investigating, and I
tell you that I am gathering all the threads into my hands."
"And the next stage?"
"Is a very simple one. I shall go down with Hill to the Italian
Quarter, find the man whose photograph we have got, and arrest
him on the charge of murder. Will you come with us?"
"I think not. I fancy we can attain our end in a simpler way. I
can't say for certain, because it all depends--well, it all
depends upon a factor which is completely outside our control.
But I have great hopes--in fact, the betting is exactly two to
one--that if you will come with us to-night I shall be able to
help you to lay him by the heels."
"In the Italian Quarter?"
"No, I fancy Chiswick is an address which is more likely to find
him. If you will come with me to Chiswick to-night, Lestrade,
I'll promise to go to the Italian Quarter with you to-morrow,
and no harm will be done by the delay. And now I think that a
few hours' sleep would do us all good, for I do not propose to
leave before eleven o'clock, and it is unlikely that we shall be
back before morning. You'll dine with us, Lestrade, and then you
are welcome to the sofa until it is time for us to start. In the
meantime, Watson, I should be glad if you would ring for an
express messenger, for I have a letter to send and it is
important that it should go at once."
Holmes spent the evening in rummaging among the files of the old
daily papers with which one of our lumber-rooms was packed. When
at last he descended, it was with triumph in his eyes, but he
said nothing to either of us as to the result of his researches.
For my own part, I had followed step by step the methods by
which he had traced the various windings of this complex case,
and, though I could not yet perceive the goal which we would
reach, I understood clearly that Holmes expected this grotesque
criminal to make an attempt upon the two remaining busts, one of
which, I remembered, was at Chiswick. No doubt the object of our
journey was to catch him in the very act, and I could not but
admire the cunning with which my friend had inserted a wrong
clue in the evening paper, so as to give the fellow the idea
that he could continue his scheme with impunity. I was not
surprised when Holmes suggested that I should take my revolver
with me. He had himself picked up the loaded hunting-crop, which
was his favourite weapon.
A four-wheeler was at the door at eleven, and in it we drove to
a spot at the other side of Hammersmith Bridge. Here the cabman
was directed to wait. A short walk brought us to a secluded road
fringed with pleasant houses, each standing in its own grounds.
In the light of a street lamp we read "Laburnum Villa" upon the
gate-post of one of them. The occupants had evidently retired to
rest, for all was dark save for a fanlight over the hall door,
which shed a single blurred circle on to the garden path. The
wooden fence which separated the grounds from the road threw a
dense black shadow upon the inner side, and here it was that we
"I fear that you'll have a long wait," Holmes whispered. "We may
thank our stars that it is not raining. I don't think we can
even venture to smoke to pass the time. However, it's a two to
one chance that we get something to pay us for our trouble."
It proved, however, that our vigil was not to be so long as
Holmes had led us to fear, and it ended in a very sudden and
singular fashion. In an instant, without the least sound to warn
us of his coming, the garden gate swung open, and a lithe, dark
figure, as swift and active as an ape, rushed up the garden
path. We saw it whisk past the light thrown from over the door
and disappear against the black shadow of the house. There was
a long pause, during which we held our breath, and then a very
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