Part 3 - The Return of Sherlock Holmes Audiobook by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (Adventures 06-08)

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I have never known my friend to be in better form, both mental and physical, than
in the year '95.
His increasing fame had brought with it an immense practice, and I should be guilty of
an indiscretion if I were even to hint at the identity of some of the illustrious
clients who crossed our humble threshold in Baker Street.
Holmes, however, like all great artists, lived for his art's sake, and, save in the
case of the Duke of Holdernesse, I have seldom known him claim any large reward for
his inestimable services.
So unworldly was he--or so capricious--that he frequently refused his help to the
powerful and wealthy where the problem made no appeal to his sympathies, while he would
devote weeks of most intense application to
the affairs of some humble client whose case presented those strange and dramatic
qualities which appealed to his imagination and challenged his ingenuity.
In this memorable year '95, a curious and incongruous succession of cases had engaged
his attention, ranging from his famous investigation of the sudden death of
Cardinal Tosca--an inquiry which was
carried out by him at the express desire of His Holiness the Pope--down to his arrest
of Wilson, the notorious canary-trainer, which removed a plague-spot from the East
End of London.
Close on the heels of these two famous cases came the tragedy of Woodman's Lee,
and the very obscure circumstances which surrounded the death of Captain Peter
No record of the doings of Mr. Sherlock Holmes would be complete which did not
include some account of this very unusual affair.
During the first week of July, my friend had been absent so often and so long from
our lodgings that I knew he had something on hand.
The fact that several rough-looking men called during that time and inquired for
Captain Basil made me understand that Holmes was working somewhere under one of
the numerous disguises and names with which he concealed his own formidable identity.
He had at least five small refuges in different parts of London, in which he was
able to change his personality.
He said nothing of his business to me, and it was not my habit to force a confidence.
The first positive sign which he gave me of the direction which his investigation was
taking was an extraordinary one.
He had gone out before breakfast, and I had sat down to mine when he strode into the
room, his hat upon his head and a huge barbed-headed spear tucked like an umbrella
under his arm.
"Good gracious, Holmes!" I cried.
"You don't mean to say that you have been walking about London with that thing?"
"I drove to the butcher's and back."
"The butcher's?" "And I return with an excellent appetite.
There can be no question, my dear Watson, of the value of exercise before breakfast.
But I am prepared to bet that you will not guess the form that my exercise has taken."
"I will not attempt it." He chuckled as he poured out the coffee.
"If you could have looked into Allardyce's back shop, you would have seen a dead pig
swung from a hook in the ceiling, and a gentleman in his shirt sleeves furiously
stabbing at it with this weapon.
I was that energetic person, and I have satisfied myself that by no exertion of my
strength can I transfix the pig with a single blow.
Perhaps you would care to try?"
"Not for worlds. But why were you doing this?"
"Because it seemed to me to have an indirect bearing upon the mystery of
Woodman's Lee.
Ah, Hopkins, I got your wire last night, and I have been expecting you.
Come and join us."
Our visitor was an exceedingly alert man, thirty years of age, dressed in a quiet
tweed suit, but retaining the erect bearing of one who was accustomed to official
I recognized him at once as Stanley Hopkins, a young police inspector, for
whose future Holmes had high hopes, while he in turn professed the admiration and
respect of a pupil for the scientific methods of the famous amateur.
Hopkins's brow was clouded, and he sat down with an air of deep dejection.
"No, thank you, sir.
I breakfasted before I came round. I spent the night in town, for I came up
yesterday to report." "And what had you to report?"
"Failure, sir, absolute failure."
"You have made no progress?" "None."
"Dear me! I must have a look at the matter."
"I wish to heavens that you would, Mr. Holmes.
It's my first big chance, and I am at my wit's end.
For goodness' sake, come down and lend me a hand."
"Well, well, it just happens that I have already read all the available evidence,
including the report of the inquest, with some care.
By the way, what do you make of that tobacco pouch, found on the scene of the
crime? Is there no clue there?"
Hopkins looked surprised.
"It was the man's own pouch, sir. His initials were inside it.
And it was of sealskin,--and he was an old sealer."
"But he had no pipe."
"No, sir, we could find no pipe. Indeed, he smoked very little, and yet he
might have kept some tobacco for his friends."
"No doubt.
I only mention it because, if I had been handling the case, I should have been
inclined to make that the starting-point of my investigation.
However, my friend, Dr. Watson, knows nothing of this matter, and I should be
none the worse for hearing the sequence of events once more.
Just give us some short sketches of the essentials."
Stanley Hopkins drew a slip of paper from his pocket.
"I have a few dates here which will give you the career of the dead man, Captain
Peter Carey. He was born in '45--fifty years of age.
He was a most daring and successful seal and whale fisher.
In 1883 he commanded the steam sealer SEA UNICORN, of Dundee.
He had then had several successful voyages in succession, and in the following year,
1884, he retired.
After that he travelled for some years, and finally he bought a small place called
Woodman's Lee, near Forest Row, in Sussex. There he has lived for six years, and there
he died just a week ago to-day.
"There were some most singular points about the man.
In ordinary life, he was a strict Puritan-- a silent, gloomy fellow.
His household consisted of his wife, his daughter, aged twenty, and two female
These last were continually changing, for it was never a very cheery situation, and
sometimes it became past all bearing.
The man was an intermittent drunkard, and when he had the fit on him he was a perfect
He has been known to drive his wife and daughter out of doors in the middle of the
night and flog them through the park until the whole village outside the gates was
aroused by their screams.
"He was summoned once for a savage assault upon the old vicar, who had called upon him
to remonstrate with him upon his conduct.
In short, Mr. Holmes, you would go far before you found a more dangerous man than
Peter Carey, and I have heard that he bore the same character when he commanded his
He was known in the trade as Black Peter, and the name was given him, not only on
account of his swarthy features and the colour of his huge beard, but for the
humours which were the terror of all around him.
I need not say that he was loathed and avoided by every one of his neighbours, and
that I have not heard one single word of sorrow about his terrible end.
"You must have read in the account of the inquest about the man's cabin, Mr. Holmes,
but perhaps your friend here has not heard of it.
He had built himself a wooden outhouse--he always called it the 'cabin'--a few hundred
yards from his house, and it was here that he slept every night.
It was a little, single-roomed hut, sixteen feet by ten.
He kept the key in his pocket, made his own bed, cleaned it himself, and allowed no
other foot to cross the threshold.
There are small windows on each side, which were covered by curtains and never opened.
One of these windows was turned towards the high road, and when the light burned in it
at night the folk used to point it out to each other and wonder what Black Peter was
doing in there.
That's the window, Mr. Holmes, which gave us one of the few bits of positive evidence
that came out at the inquest.
"You remember that a stonemason, named Slater, walking from Forest Row about one
o'clock in the morning--two days before the murder--stopped as he passed the grounds
and looked at the square of light still shining among the trees.
He swears that the shadow of a man's head turned sideways was clearly visible on the
blind, and that this shadow was certainly not that of Peter Carey, whom he knew well.
It was that of a bearded man, but the beard was short and bristled forward in a way
very different from that of the captain.
So he says, but he had been two hours in the public-house, and it is some distance
from the road to the window. Besides, this refers to the Monday, and the
crime was done upon the Wednesday.
"On the Tuesday, Peter Carey was in one of his blackest moods, flushed with drink and
as savage as a dangerous wild beast. He roamed about the house, and the women
ran for it when they heard him coming.
Late in the evening, he went down to his own hut.
About two o'clock the following morning, his daughter, who slept with her window
open, heard a most fearful yell from that direction, but it was no unusual thing for
him to bawl and shout when he was in drink, so no notice was taken.
On rising at seven, one of the maids noticed that the door of the hut was open,
but so great was the terror which the man caused that it was midday before anyone
would venture down to see what had become of him.
Peeping into the open door, they saw a sight which sent them flying, with white
faces, into the village.
Within an hour, I was on the spot and had taken over the case.
"Well, I have fairly steady nerves, as you know, Mr. Holmes, but I give you my word,
that I got a shake when I put my head into that little house.
It was droning like a harmonium with the flies and bluebottles, and the floor and
walls were like a slaughter-house.
He had called it a cabin, and a cabin it was, sure enough, for you would have
thought that you were in a ship.
There was a bunk at one end, a sea-chest, maps and charts, a picture of the SEA
UNICORN, a line of logbooks on a shelf, all exactly as one would expect to find it in a
captain's room.
And there, in the middle of it, was the man himself--his face twisted like a lost soul
in torment, and his great brindled beard stuck upward in his agony.
Right through his broad breast a steel harpoon had been driven, and it had sunk
deep into the wood of the wall behind him. He was pinned like a beetle on a card.
Of course, he was quite dead, and had been so from the instant that he had uttered
that last yell of agony. "I know your methods, sir, and I applied
Before I permitted anything to be moved, I examined most carefully the ground outside,
and also the floor of the room. There were no footmarks."
"Meaning that you saw none?"
"I assure you, sir, that there were none." "My good Hopkins, I have investigated many
crimes, but I have never yet seen one which was committed by a flying creature.
As long as the criminal remains upon two legs so long must there be some
indentation, some abrasion, some trifling displacement which can be detected by the
scientific searcher.
It is incredible that this blood- bespattered room contained no trace which
could have aided us.
I understand, however, from the inquest that there were some objects which you
failed to overlook?" The young inspector winced at my
companion's ironical comments.
"I was a fool not to call you in at the time Mr. Holmes.
However, that's past praying for now. Yes, there were several objects in the room
which called for special attention.
One was the harpoon with which the deed was committed.
It had been snatched down from a rack on the wall.
Two others remained there, and there was a vacant place for the third.
On the stock was engraved 'SS. SEA UNICORN, Dundee.'
This seemed to establish that the crime had been done in a moment of fury, and that the
murderer had seized the first weapon which came in his way.
The fact that the crime was committed at two in the morning, and yet Peter Carey was
fully dressed, suggested that he had an appointment with the murderer, which is
borne out by the fact that a bottle of rum
and two dirty glasses stood upon the table."
"Yes," said Holmes; "I think that both inferences are permissible.
Was there any other spirit but rum in the room?"
"Yes, there was a tantalus containing brandy and whisky on the sea-chest.
It is of no importance to us, however, since the decanters were full, and it had
therefore not been used." "For all that, its presence has some
significance," said Holmes.
"However, let us hear some more about the objects which do seem to you to bear upon
the case." "There was this tobacco-pouch upon the
"What part of the table?" "It lay in the middle.
It was of coarse sealskin--the straight- haired skin, with a leather thong to bind
Inside was 'P.C.' on the flap. There was half an ounce of strong ship's
tobacco in it." "Excellent!
What more?"
Stanley Hopkins drew from his pocket a drab-covered notebook.
The outside was rough and worn, the leaves discoloured.
On the first page were written the initials "J.H.N." and the date "1883."
Holmes laid it on the table and examined it in his minute way, while Hopkins and I
gazed over each shoulder.
On the second page were the printed letters "C.P.R.," and then came several sheets of
Another heading was "Argentine," another "Costa Rica," and another "San Paulo," each
with pages of signs and figures after it. "What do you make of these?" asked Holmes.
"They appear to be lists of Stock Exchange securities.
I thought that 'J.H.N.' were the initials of a broker, and that 'C.P.R.' may have
been his client."
"Try Canadian Pacific Railway," said Holmes.
Stanley Hopkins swore between his teeth, and struck his thigh with his clenched
"What a fool I have been!" he cried. "Of course, it is as you say.
Then 'J.H.N.' are the only initials we have to solve.
I have already examined the old Stock Exchange lists, and I can find no one in
1883, either in the house or among the outside brokers, whose initials correspond
with these.
Yet I feel that the clue is the most important one that I hold.
You will admit, Mr. Holmes, that there is a possibility that these initials are those
of the second person who was present--in other words, of the murderer.
I would also urge that the introduction into the case of a document relating to
large masses of valuable securities gives us for the first time some indication of a
motive for the crime."
Sherlock Holmes's face showed that he was thoroughly taken aback by this new
development. "I must admit both your points," said he.
"I confess that this notebook, which did not appear at the inquest, modifies any
views which I may have formed. I had come to a theory of the crime in
which I can find no place for this.
Have you endeavoured to trace any of the securities here mentioned?"
"Inquiries are now being made at the offices, but I fear that the complete
register of the stockholders of these South American concerns is in South America, and
that some weeks must elapse before we can trace the shares."
Holmes had been examining the cover of the notebook with his magnifying lens.
"Surely there is some discolouration here," said he.
"Yes, sir, it is a blood-stain. I told you that I picked the book off the
"Was the blood-stain above or below?" "On the side next the boards."
"Which proves, of course, that the book was dropped after the crime was committed."
"Exactly, Mr. Holmes.
I appreciated that point, and I conjectured that it was dropped by the murderer in his
hurried flight. It lay near the door."
"I suppose that none of these securities have been found among the property of the
dead man?" "No, sir."
"Have you any reason to suspect robbery?"
"No, sir. Nothing seemed to have been touched."
"Dear me, it is certainly a very interesting case.
Then there was a knife, was there not?"
"A sheath-knife, still in its sheath. It lay at the feet of the dead man.
Mrs. Carey has identified it as being her husband's property."
Holmes was lost in thought for some time.
"Well," said he, at last, "I suppose I shall have to come out and have a look at
it." Stanley Hopkins gave a cry of joy.
"Thank you, sir.
That will, indeed, be a weight off my mind."
Holmes shook his finger at the inspector. "It would have been an easier task a week
ago," said he.
"But even now my visit may not be entirely fruitless.
Watson, if you can spare the time, I should be very glad of your company.
If you will call a four-wheeler, Hopkins, we shall be ready to start for Forest Row
in a quarter of an hour."
Alighting at the small wayside station, we drove for some miles through the remains of
widespread woods, which were once part of that great forest which for so long held
the Saxon invaders at bay--the impenetrable
"weald," for sixty years the bulwark of Britain.
Vast sections of it have been cleared, for this is the seat of the first iron-works of
the country, and the trees have been felled to smelt the ore.
Now the richer fields of the North have absorbed the trade, and nothing save these
ravaged groves and great scars in the earth show the work of the past.
Here, in a clearing upon the green slope of a hill, stood a long, low, stone house,
approached by a curving drive running through the fields.
Nearer the road, and surrounded on three sides by bushes, was a small outhouse, one
window and the door facing in our direction.
It was the scene of the murder.
Stanley Hopkins led us first to the house, where he introduced us to a haggard, gray-
haired woman, the widow of the murdered man, whose gaunt and deep-lined face, with
the furtive look of terror in the depths of
her red-rimmed eyes, told of the years of hardship and ill-usage which she had
With her was her daughter, a pale, fair- haired girl, whose eyes blazed defiantly at
us as she told us that she was glad that her father was dead, and that she blessed
the hand which had struck him down.
It was a terrible household that Black Peter Carey had made for himself, and it
was with a sense of relief that we found ourselves in the sunlight again and making
our way along a path which had been worn
across the fields by the feet of the dead man.
The outhouse was the simplest of dwellings, wooden-walled, shingle-roofed, one window
beside the door and one on the farther side.
Stanley Hopkins drew the key from his pocket and had stooped to the lock, when he
paused with a look of attention and surprise upon his face.
"Someone has been tampering with it," he said.
There could be no doubt of the fact.
The woodwork was cut, and the scratches showed white through the paint, as if they
had been that instant done. Holmes had been examining the window.
"Someone has tried to force this also.
Whoever it was has failed to make his way in.
He must have been a very poor burglar."
"This is a most extraordinary thing," said the inspector, "I could swear that these
marks were not here yesterday evening." "Some curious person from the village,
perhaps," I suggested.
"Very unlikely. Few of them would dare to set foot in the
grounds, far less try to force their way into the cabin.
What do 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 patient investigation.
"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
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
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
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 self-composure.
"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 your name?" "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 Neligan
"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
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 this hut.
"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
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?" He hesitated.
"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 criminal
"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
That's my name in those parts. The other is: 'Inspector Stanley Hopkins,
46 Lord Street, Brixton. Come breakfast to-morrow at nine-thirty.
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
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 his success.
"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?"
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
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.
"James Lancaster." "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. "Patrick Cairns."
"Yes, sir. Twenty-six voyages."
"Dundee, I suppose?" "Yes, sir."
"And ready to start with an exploring ship?"
"Yes, sir." "What wages?"
"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 a yarn."
"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
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
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
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 price 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 result."
"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
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
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
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."
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
I picked it up and read: CHARLES AUGUSTUS MILVERTON, Appledore
Towers, Hampstead. Agent.
"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 the card?"
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 the law?"
"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
"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 the room.
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." Milverton chuckled.
"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 astrakhan coat. 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
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
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
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?"
"No, indeed!"
"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 it is!"
"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 purpose."
Since it is morally justifiable, I have only to consider the question of personal
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."
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
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
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
"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 drawing-room."
The place was locked, but Holmes removed a circle of glass and turned the key from the
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
Right in front of us, and almost within our reach, was the broad, rounded back of
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
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 another channel.
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 opened it.
"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
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
strong emotion. "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 other time--eh?"
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!- -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
I heard a sharp rustle, the night air blew into the heated room, and the avenger was
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
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
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
"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
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
"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
this case."
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.
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." Lestrade laughed.
"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 investigation.
"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 the facts."
"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 Hudson's shop?"
"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
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
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 events."
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.
"LESTRADE." "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
Holmes whistled. "By George!
It's attempted murder at the least. Nothing less will hold the London message-
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
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 melancholy face.
"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 the story."
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 writing-table.
"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 foolscap.
The spat where the fragments of the bust had been found was only a few hundred yards
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
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 sole object."
"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, Lestrade?"
"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
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
It will be useful for his article." Lestrade stared.
"You don't seriously believe that?" Holmes smiled.
"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 peppery manner.
"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,
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
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
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
"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
"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
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 ready tongue.
"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
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 inquiries."
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 beginning."
"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."
"Splendid!" "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
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. Sherlock Holmes?"
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
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
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
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 crouched.
"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 gentle
creaking sound came to our ears. The window was being opened.
The noise ceased, and again there was a long silence.
The fellow was making his way into the house.
We saw the sudden flash of a dark lantern inside the room.
What he sought was evidently not there, for again we saw the flash through another
blind, and then through another.
"Let us get to the open window. We will nab him as he climbs out," Lestrade
whispered. But before we could move, the man had
emerged again.
As he came out into the glimmering patch of light, we saw that he carried something
white under his arm. He looked stealthily all round him.
The silence of the deserted street reassured him.
Turning his back upon us he laid down his burden, and the next instant there was the
sound of a sharp tap, followed by a clatter and rattle.
The man was so intent upon what he was doing that he never heard our steps as we
stole across the grass plot.
With the bound of a tiger Holmes was on his back, and an instant later Lestrade and I
had him by either wrist, and the handcuffs had been fastened.
As we turned him over I saw a hideous, sallow face, with writhing, furious
features, glaring up at us, and I knew that it was indeed the man of the photograph
whom we had secured.
But it was not our prisoner to whom Holmes was giving his attention.
Squatted on the doorstep, he was engaged in most carefully examining that which the man
had brought from the house.
It was a bust of Napoleon, like the one which we had seen that morning, and it had
been broken into similar fragments.
Carefully Holmes held each separate shard to the light, but in no way did it differ
from any other shattered piece of plaster.
He had just completed his examination when the hall lights flew up, the door opened,
and the owner of the house, a jovial, rotund figure in shirt and trousers,
presented himself.
" Mr. Josiah Brown, I suppose?" said Holmes.
"Yes, sir; and you, no doubt, are Mr. Sherlock Holmes?
I had the note which you sent by the express messenger, and I did exactly what
you told me. We locked every door on the inside and
awaited developments.
Well, I'm very glad to see that you have got the rascal.
I hope, gentlemen, that you will come in and have some refreshment."
However, Lestrade was anxious to get his man into safe quarters, so within a few
minutes our cab had been summoned and we were all four upon our way to London.
Not a word would our captive say, but he glared at us from the shadow of his matted
hair, and once, when my hand seemed within his reach, he snapped at it like a hungry
We stayed long enough at the police-station to learn that a search of his clothing
revealed nothing save a few shillings and a long sheath knife, the handle of which bore
copious traces of recent blood.
"That's all right," said Lestrade, as we parted.
"Hill knows all these gentry, and he will give a name to him.
You'll find that my theory of the Mafia will work out all right.
But I'm sure I am exceedingly obliged to you, Mr. Holmes, for the workmanlike way
in which you laid hands upon him.
I don't quite understand it all yet." "I fear it is rather too late an hour for
explanations," said Holmes.
"Besides, there are one or two details which are not finished off, and it is one
of those cases which are worth working out to the very end.
If you will come round once more to my rooms at six o'clock to-morrow, I think I
shall be able to show you that even now you have not grasped the entire meaning of this
business, which presents some features
which make it absolutely original in the history of crime.
If ever I permit you to chronicle any more of my little problems, Watson, I foresee
that you will enliven your pages by an account of the singular adventure of the
Napoleonic busts."
When we met again next evening, Lestrade was furnished with much information
concerning our prisoner. His name, it appeared, was Beppo, second
name unknown.
He was a well-known ne'er-do-well among the Italian colony.
He had once been a skilful sculptor and had earned an honest living, but he had taken
to evil courses and had twice already been in jail--once for a petty theft, and once,
as we had already heard, for stabbing a fellow-countryman.
He could talk English perfectly well.
His reasons for destroying the busts were still unknown, and he refused to answer any
questions upon the subject, but the police had discovered that these same busts might
very well have been made by his own hands,
since he was engaged in this class of work at the establishment of Gelder & Co.
To all this information, much of which we already knew, Holmes listened with polite
attention, but I, who knew him so well, could clearly see that his thoughts were
elsewhere, and I detected a mixture of
mingled uneasiness and expectation beneath that mask which he was wont to assume.
At last he started in his chair, and his eyes brightened.
There had been a ring at the bell.
A minute later we heard steps upon the stairs, and an elderly red-faced man with
grizzled side-whiskers was ushered in.
In his right hand he carried an old- fashioned carpet-bag, which he placed upon
the table. "Is Mr. Sherlock Holmes here?"
My friend bowed and smiled.
" Mr. Sandeford, of Reading, I suppose?" said he.
"Yes, sir, I fear that I am a little late, but the trains were awkward.
You wrote to me about a bust that is in my possession."
"Exactly." "I have your letter here.
You said, 'I desire to possess a copy of Devine's Napoleon, and am prepared to pay
you ten pounds for the one which is in your possession.'
Is that right?"
"Certainly." "I was very much surprised at your letter,
for I could not imagine how you knew that I owned such a thing."
"Of course you must have been surprised, but the explanation is very simple.
Mr. Harding, of Harding Brothers, said that they had sold you their last copy, and
he gave me your address."
"Oh, that was it, was it? Did he tell you what I paid for it?"
"No, he did not." "Well, I am an honest man, though not a
very rich one.
I only gave fifteen shillings for the bust, and I think you ought to know that before I
take ten pounds from you. "I am sure the scruple does you honour,
Mr. Sandeford.
But I have named that price, so I intend to stick to it."
"Well, it is very handsome of you, Mr. Holmes.
I brought the bust up with me, as you asked me to do.
Here it is!"
He opened his bag, and at last we saw placed upon our table a complete specimen
of that bust which we had already seen more than once in fragments.
Holmes took a paper from his pocket and laid a ten-pound note upon the table.
"You will kindly sign that paper, Mr. Sandeford, in the presence of these
It is simply to say that you transfer every possible right that you ever had in the
bust to me.
I am a methodical man, you see, and you never know what turn events might take
afterwards. Thank you, Mr. Sandeford; here is your
money, and I wish you a very good evening."
When our visitor had disappeared, Sherlock Holmes's movements were such as to rivet
our attention. He began by taking a clean white cloth from
a drawer and laying it over the table.
Then he placed his newly acquired bust in the centre of the cloth.
Finally, he picked up his hunting-crop and struck Napoleon a sharp blow on the top of
the head.
The figure broke into fragments, and Holmes bent eagerly over the shattered remains.
Next instant, with a loud shout of triumph he held up one splinter, in which a round,
dark object was fixed like a plum in a pudding.
"Gentlemen," he cried, "let me introduce you to the famous black pearl of the
Lestrade and I sat silent for a moment, and then, with a spontaneous impulse, we both
broke at clapping, as at the well-wrought crisis of a play.
A flush of colour sprang to Holmes's pale cheeks, and he bowed to us like the master
dramatist who receives the homage of his audience.
It was at such moments that for an instant he ceased to be a reasoning machine, and
betrayed his human love for admiration and applause.
The same singularly proud and reserved nature which turned away with disdain from
popular notoriety was capable of being moved to its depths by spontaneous wonder
and praise from a friend.
"Yes, gentlemen," said he, "it is the most famous pearl now existing in the world, and
it has been my good fortune, by a connected chain of inductive reasoning, to trace it
from the Prince of Colonna's bedroom at the
Dacre Hotel, where it was lost, to the interior of this, the last of the six busts
of Napoleon which were manufactured by Gelder & Co., of Stepney.
You will remember, Lestrade, the sensation caused by the disappearance of this
valuable jewel and the vain efforts of the London police to recover it.
I was myself consulted upon the case, but I was unable to throw any light upon it.
Suspicion fell upon the maid of the Princess, who was an Italian, and it was
proved that she had a brother in London, but we failed to trace any connection
between them.
The maid's name was Lucretia Venucci, and there is no doubt in my mind that this
Pietro who was murdered two nights ago was the brother.
I have been looking up the dates in the old files of the paper, and I find that the
disappearance of the pearl was exactly two days before the arrest of Beppo, for some
crime of violence--an event which took
place in the factory of Gelder & Co., at the very moment when these busts were being
Now you clearly see the sequence of events, though you see them, of course, in the
inverse order to the way in which they presented themselves to me.
Beppo had the pearl in his possession.
He may have stolen it from Pietro, he may have been Pietro's confederate, he may have
been the go-between of Pietro and his sister.
It is of no consequence to us which is the correct solution.
"The main fact is that he HAD the pearl, and at that moment, when it was on his
person, he was pursued by the police.
He made for the factory in which he worked, and he knew that he had only a few minutes
in which to conceal this enormously valuable prize, which would otherwise be
found on him when he was searched.
Six plaster casts of Napoleon were drying in the passage.
One of them was still soft.
In an instant Beppo, a skilful workman, made a small hole in the wet plaster,
dropped in the pearl, and with a few touches covered over the aperture once
It was an admirable hiding-place. No one could possibly find it.
But Beppo was condemned to a year's imprisonment, and in the meanwhile his six
busts were scattered over London.
He could not tell which contained his treasure.
Only by breaking them could he see.
Even shaking would tell him nothing, for as the plaster was wet it was probable that
the pearl would adhere to it--as, in fact, it has done.
Beppo did not despair, and he conducted his search with considerable ingenuity and
Through a cousin who works with Gelder, he found out the retail firms who had bought
the busts.
He managed to find employment with Morse Hudson, and in that way tracked down three
of them. The pearl was not there.
Then, with the help of some Italian employee, he succeeded in finding out where
the other three busts had gone. The first was at Harker's.
There he was dogged by his confederate, who held Beppo responsible for the loss of the
pearl, and he stabbed him in the scuffle which followed."
"If he was his confederate, why should he carry his photograph?"
I asked. "As a means of tracing him, if he wished to
inquire about him from any third person.
That was the obvious reason. Well, after the murder I calculated that
Beppo would probably hurry rather than delay his movements.
He would fear that the police would read his secret, and so he hastened on before
they should get ahead of him. Of course, I could not say that he had not
found the pearl in Harker's bust.
I had not even concluded for certain that it was the pearl, but it was evident to me
that he was looking for something, since he carried the bust past the other houses in
order to break it in the garden which had a lamp overlooking it.
Since Harker's bust was one in three, the chances were exactly as I told you--two to
one against the pearl being inside it.
There remained two busts, and it was obvious that he would go for the London one
I warned the inmates of the house, so as to avoid a second tragedy, and we went down,
with the happiest results.
By that time, of course, I knew for certain that it was the Borgia pearl that we were
after. The name of the murdered man linked the one
event with the other.
There only remained a single bust--the Reading one--and the pearl must be there.
I bought it in your presence from the owner--and there it lies."
We sat in silence for a moment.
"Well," said Lestrade, "I've seen you handle a good many cases, Mr. Holmes, but
I don't know that I ever knew a more workmanlike one than that.
We're not jealous of you at Scotland Yard.
No, sir, we are very proud of you, and if you come down to-morrow, there's not a man,
from the oldest inspector to the youngest constable, who wouldn't be glad to shake
you by the hand."
"Thank you!" said Holmes. "Thank you!" and as he turned away, it
seemed to me that he was more nearly moved by the softer human emotions than I had
ever seen him.
A moment later he was the cold and practical thinker once more.
"Put the pearl in the safe, Watson," said he, "and get out the papers of the Conk-
Singleton forgery case.
Good-bye, Lestrade. If any little problem comes your way, I
shall be happy, if I can, to give you a hint or two as to its solution."