Part 3 - The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes Audiobook by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (Adventures 09-11)


Uploaded by CCProse on 25.09.2011

Transcript:
Adventure IX. The Greek Interpreter
During my long and intimate acquaintance with Mr. Sherlock Holmes I had never heard
him refer to his relations, and hardly ever to his own early life.
This reticence upon his part had increased the somewhat inhuman effect which he
produced upon me, until sometimes I found myself regarding him as an isolated
phenomenon, a brain without a heart, as
deficient in human sympathy as he was pre- eminent in intelligence.
His aversion to women and his disinclination to form new friendships were
both typical of his unemotional character, but not more so than his complete
suppression of every reference to his own people.
I had come to believe that he was an orphan with no relatives living, but one day, to
my very great surprise, he began to talk to me about his brother.
It was after tea on a summer evening, and the conversation, which had roamed in a
desultory, spasmodic fashion from golf clubs to the causes of the change in the
obliquity of the ecliptic, came round at
last to the question of atavism and hereditary aptitudes.
The point under discussion was, how far any singular gift in an individual was due to
his ancestry and how far to his own early training.
"In your own case," said I, "from all that you have told me, it seems obvious that
your faculty of observation and your peculiar facility for deduction are due to
your own systematic training."
"To some extent," he answered, thoughtfully.
"My ancestors were country squires, who appear to have led much the same life as is
natural to their class.
But, none the less, my turn that way is in my veins, and may have come with my
grandmother, who was the sister of Vernet, the French artist.
Art in the blood is liable to take the strangest forms."
"But how do you know that it is hereditary?"
"Because my brother Mycroft possesses it in a larger degree than I do."
This was news to me indeed.
If there were another man with such singular powers in England, how was it that
neither police nor public had heard of him?
I put the question, with a hint that it was my companion's modesty which made him
acknowledge his brother as his superior. Holmes laughed at my suggestion.
"My dear Watson," said he, "I cannot agree with those who rank modesty among the
virtues.
To the logician all things should be seen exactly as they are, and to underestimate
one's self is as much a departure from truth as to exaggerate one's own powers.
When I say, therefore, that Mycroft has better powers of observation than I, you
may take it that I am speaking the exact and literal truth."
"Is he your junior?"
"Seven years my senior." "How comes it that he is unknown?"
"Oh, he is very well known in his own circle."
"Where, then?"
"Well, in the Diogenes Club, for example." I had never heard of the institution, and
my face must have proclaimed as much, for Sherlock Holmes pulled out his watch.
"The Diogenes Club is the queerest club in London, and Mycroft one of the queerest
men. He's always there from quarter to five to
twenty to eight.
It's six now, so if you care for a stroll this beautiful evening I shall be very
happy to introduce you to two curiosities." Five minutes later we were in the street,
walking towards Regent's Circus.
"You wonder," said my companion, "why it is that Mycroft does not use his powers for
detective work. He is incapable of it."
"But I thought you said--"
"I said that he was my superior in observation and deduction.
If the art of the detective began and ended in reasoning from an arm-chair, my brother
would be the greatest criminal agent that ever lived.
But he has no ambition and no energy.
He will not even go out of his way to verify his own solutions, and would rather
be considered wrong than take the trouble to prove himself right.
Again and again I have taken a problem to him, and have received an explanation which
has afterwards proved to be the correct one.
And yet he was absolutely incapable of working out the practical points which must
be gone into before a case could be laid before a judge or jury."
"It is not his profession, then?"
"By no means. What is to me a means of livelihood is to
him the merest hobby of a dilettante.
He has an extraordinary faculty for figures, and audits the books in some of
the government departments.
Mycroft lodges in Pall Mall, and he walks round the corner into Whitehall every
morning and back every evening.
From year's end to year's end he takes no other exercise, and is seen nowhere else,
except only in the Diogenes Club, which is just opposite his rooms."
"I cannot recall the name."
"Very likely not. There are many men in London, you know,
who, some from shyness, some from misanthropy, have no wish for the company
of their fellows.
Yet they are not averse to comfortable chairs and the latest periodicals.
It is for the convenience of these that the Diogenes Club was started, and it now
contains the most unsociable and unclubable men in town.
No member is permitted to take the least notice of any other one.
Save in the Stranger's Room, no talking is, under any circumstances, allowed, and three
offences, if brought to the notice of the committee, render the talker liable to
expulsion.
My brother was one of the founders, and I have myself found it a very soothing
atmosphere."
We had reached Pall Mall as we talked, and were walking down it from the St. James's
end.
Sherlock Holmes stopped at a door some little distance from the Carlton, and,
cautioning me not to speak, he led the way into the hall.
Through the glass paneling I caught a glimpse of a large and luxurious room, in
which a considerable number of men were sitting about and reading papers, each in
his own little nook.
Holmes showed me into a small chamber which looked out into Pall Mall, and then,
leaving me for a minute, he came back with a companion whom I knew could only be his
brother.
Mycroft Holmes was a much larger and stouter man than Sherlock.
His body was absolutely corpulent, but his face, though massive, had preserved
something of the sharpness of expression which was so remarkable in that of his
brother.
His eyes, which were of a peculiarly light, watery gray, seemed to always retain that
far-away, introspective look which I had only observed in Sherlock's when he was
exerting his full powers.
"I am glad to meet you, sir," said he, putting out a broad, fat hand like the
flipper of a seal. "I hear of Sherlock everywhere since you
became his chronicler.
By the way, Sherlock, I expected to see you round last week, to consult me over that
Manor House case. I thought you might be a little out of your
depth."
"No, I solved it," said my friend, smiling. "It was Adams, of course."
"Yes, it was Adams." "I was sure of it from the first."
The two sat down together in the bow-window of the club.
"To any one who wishes to study mankind this is the spot," said Mycroft.
"Look at the magnificent types!
Look at these two men who are coming towards us, for example."
"The billiard-marker and the other?" "Precisely.
What do you make of the other?"
The two men had stopped opposite the window.
Some chalk marks over the waistcoat pocket were the only signs of billiards which I
could see in one of them.
The other was a very small, dark fellow, with his hat pushed back and several
packages under his arm. "An old soldier, I perceive," said
Sherlock.
"And very recently discharged," remarked the brother.
"Served in India, I see." "And a non-commissioned officer."
"Royal Artillery, I fancy," said Sherlock.
"And a widower." "But with a child."
"Children, my dear boy, children." "Come," said I, laughing, "this is a little
too much."
"Surely," answered Holmes, "it is not hard to say that a man with that bearing,
expression of authority, and sunbaked skin, is a soldier, is more than a private, and
is not long from India."
"That he has not left the service long is shown by his still wearing his ammunition
boots, as they are called," observed Mycroft.
"He had not the cavalry stride, yet he wore his hat on one side, as is shown by the
lighter skin of that side of his brow. His weight is against his being a sapper.
He is in the artillery."
"Then, of course, his complete mourning shows that he has lost some one very dear.
The fact that he is doing his own shopping looks as though it were his wife.
He has been buying things for children, you perceive.
There is a rattle, which shows that one of them is very young.
The wife probably died in childbed.
The fact that he has a picture-book under his arm shows that there is another child
to be thought of."
I began to understand what my friend meant when he said that his brother possessed
even keener faculties that he did himself. He glanced across at me and smiled.
Mycroft took snuff from a tortoise-shell box, and brushed away the wandering grains
from his coat front with a large, red silk handkerchief.
"By the way, Sherlock," said he, "I have had something quite after your own heart--a
most singular problem--submitted to my judgment.
I really had not the energy to follow it up save in a very incomplete fashion, but it
gave me a basis for some pleasing speculation.
If you would care to hear the facts--"
"My dear Mycroft, I should be delighted." The brother scribbled a note upon a leaf of
his pocket-book, and, ringing the bell, he handed it to the waiter.
"I have asked Mr. Melas to step across," said he.
"He lodges on the floor above me, and I have some slight acquaintance with him,
which led him to come to me in his perplexity.
Mr. Melas is a Greek by extraction, as I understand, and he is a remarkable
linguist.
He earns his living partly as interpreter in the law courts and partly by acting as
guide to any wealthy Orientals who may visit the Northumberland Avenue hotels.
I think I will leave him to tell his very remarkable experience in his own fashion."
A few minutes later we were joined by a short, stout man whose olive face and coal-
black hair proclaimed his Southern origin, though his speech was that of an educated
Englishman.
He shook hands eagerly with Sherlock Holmes, and his dark eyes sparkled with
pleasure when he understood that the specialist was anxious to hear his story.
"I do not believe that the police credit me--on my word, I do not," said he in a
wailing voice.
"Just because they have never heard of it before, they think that such a thing cannot
be.
But I know that I shall never be easy in my mind until I know what has become of my
poor man with the sticking-plaster upon his face."
"I am all attention," said Sherlock Holmes.
"This is Wednesday evening," said Mr. Melas.
"Well then, it was Monday night--only two days ago, you understand--that all this
happened.
I am an interpreter, as perhaps my neighbor there has told you.
I interpret all languages--or nearly all-- but as I am a Greek by birth and with a
Grecian name, it is with that particular tongue that I am principally associated.
For many years I have been the chief Greek interpreter in London, and my name is very
well known in the hotels.
"It happens not unfrequently that I am sent for at strange hours by foreigners who get
into difficulties, or by travelers who arrive late and wish my services.
I was not surprised, therefore, on Monday night when a Mr. Latimer, a very
fashionably dressed young man, came up to my rooms and asked me to accompany him in a
cab which was waiting at the door.
A Greek friend had come to see him upon business, he said, and as he could speak
nothing but his own tongue, the services of an interpreter were indispensable.
He gave me to understand that his house was some little distance off, in Kensington,
and he seemed to be in a great hurry, bustling me rapidly into the cab when we
had descended to the street.
"I say into the cab, but I soon became doubtful as to whether it was not a
carriage in which I found myself.
It was certainly more roomy than the ordinary four-wheeled disgrace to London,
and the fittings, though frayed, were of rich quality.
Mr. Latimer seated himself opposite to me and we started off through Charing Cross
and up the Shaftesbury Avenue.
We had come out upon Oxford Street and I had ventured some remark as to this being a
roundabout way to Kensington, when my words were arrested by the extraordinary conduct
of my companion.
"He began by drawing a most formidable- looking bludgeon loaded with lead from his
pocket, and switching it backward and forward several times, as if to test its
weight and strength.
Then he placed it without a word upon the seat beside him.
Having done this, he drew up the windows on each side, and I found to my astonishment
that they were covered with paper so as to prevent my seeing through them.
"'I am sorry to cut off your view, Mr. Melas,' said he.
'The fact is that I have no intention that you should see what the place is to which
we are driving.
It might possibly be inconvenient to me if you could find your way there again.'
"As you can imagine, I was utterly taken aback by such an address.
My companion was a powerful, broad- shouldered young fellow, and, apart from
the weapon, I should not have had the slightest chance in a struggle with him.
"'This is very extraordinary conduct, Mr. Latimer,' I stammered.
'You must be aware that what you are doing is quite illegal.'
"'It is somewhat of a liberty, no doubt,' said he, 'but we'll make it up to you.
I must warn you, however, Mr. Melas, that if at any time to-night you attempt to
raise an alarm or do anything which is against my interests, you will find it a
very serious thing.
I beg you to remember that no one knows where you are, and that, whether you are in
this carriage or in my house, you are equally in my power.'
"His words were quiet, but he had a rasping way of saying them which was very menacing.
I sat in silence wondering what on earth could be his reason for kidnapping me in
this extraordinary fashion.
Whatever it might be, it was perfectly clear that there was no possible use in my
resisting, and that I could only wait to see what might befall.
"For nearly two hours we drove without my having the least clue as to where we were
going.
Sometimes the rattle of the stones told of a paved causeway, and at others our smooth,
silent course suggested asphalt; but, save by this variation in sound, there was
nothing at all which could in the remotest
way help me to form a guess as to where we were.
The paper over each window was impenetrable to light, and a blue curtain was drawn
across the glass work in front.
It was a quarter-past seven when we left Pall Mall, and my watch showed me that it
was ten minutes to nine when we at last came to a standstill.
My companion let down the window, and I caught a glimpse of a low, arched doorway
with a lamp burning above it.
As I was hurried from the carriage it swung open, and I found myself inside the house,
with a vague impression of a lawn and trees on each side of me as I entered.
Whether these were private grounds, however, or bona-fide country was more than
I could possibly venture to say.
"There was a colored gas-lamp inside which was turned so low that I could see little
save that the hall was of some size and hung with pictures.
In the dim light I could make out that the person who had opened the door was a small,
mean-looking, middle-aged man with rounded shoulders.
As he turned towards us the glint of the light showed me that he was wearing
glasses. "'Is this Mr. Melas, Harold?' said he.
"'Yes.'
"'Well done, well done! No ill-will, Mr. Melas, I hope, but we
could not get on without you.
If you deal fair with us you'll not regret it, but if you try any tricks, God help
you!'
He spoke in a nervous, jerky fashion, and with little giggling laughs in between, but
somehow he impressed me with fear more than the other.
"'What do you want with me?'
I asked. "'Only to ask a few questions of a Greek
gentleman who is visiting us, and to let us have the answers.
But say no more than you are told to say, or--' here came the nervous giggle again--
'you had better never have been born.'
"As he spoke he opened a door and showed the way into a room which appeared to be
very richly furnished, but again the only light was afforded by a single lamp half-
turned down.
The chamber was certainly large, and the way in which my feet sank into the carpet
as I stepped across it told me of its richness.
I caught glimpses of velvet chairs, a high white marble mantel-piece, and what seemed
to be a suit of Japanese armor at one side of it.
There was a chair just under the lamp, and the elderly man motioned that I should sit
in it.
The younger had left us, but he suddenly returned through another door, leading with
him a gentleman clad in some sort of loose dressing-gown who moved slowly towards us.
As he came into the circle of dim light which enables me to see him more clearly I
was thrilled with horror at his appearance.
He was deadly pale and terribly emaciated, with the protruding, brilliant eyes of a
man whose spirit was greater than his strength.
But what shocked me more than any signs of physical weakness was that his face was
grotesquely criss-crossed with sticking- plaster, and that one large pad of it was
fastened over his mouth.
"'Have you the slate, Harold?' cried the older man, as this strange being fell
rather than sat down into a chair. 'Are his hands loose?
Now, then, give him the pencil.
You are to ask the questions, Mr. Melas, and he will write the answers.
Ask him first of all whether he is prepared to sign the papers?'
"The man's eyes flashed fire.
"'Never!' he wrote in Greek upon the slate. "'On no condition?'
I asked, at the bidding of our tyrant. "'Only if I see her married in my presence
by a Greek priest whom I know.'
"The man giggled in his venomous way. "'You know what awaits you, then?'
"'I care nothing for myself.'
"These are samples of the questions and answers which made up our strange half-
spoken, half-written conversation. Again and again I had to ask him whether he
would give in and sign the documents.
Again and again I had the same indignant reply.
But soon a happy thought came to me.
I took to adding on little sentences of my own to each question, innocent ones at
first, to test whether either of our companions knew anything of the matter, and
then, as I found that they showed no signs I played a more dangerous game.
Our conversation ran something like this: "'You can do no good by this obstinacy.
Who are you?'
"'I care not. I am a stranger in London.'
"'Your fate will be upon your own head. How long have you been here?'
"'Let it be so.
Three weeks.' "'The property can never be yours.
What ails you?' "'It shall not go to villains.
They are starving me.'
"'You shall go free if you sign. What house is this?'
"'I will never sign. I do not know.'
"'You are not doing her any service.
What is your name?' "'Let me hear her say so.
Kratides.' "'You shall see her if you sign.
Where are you from?'
"'Then I shall never see her. Athens.'
"Another five minutes, Mr. Holmes, and I should have wormed out the whole story
under their very noses.
My very next question might have cleared the matter up, but at that instant the door
opened and a woman stepped into the room.
I could not see her clearly enough to know more than that she was tall and graceful,
with black hair, and clad in some sort of loose white gown.
"'Harold,' said she, speaking English with a broken accent.
'I could not stay away longer. It is so lonely up there with only--Oh, my
God, it is Paul!'
"These last words were in Greek, and at the same instant the man with a convulsive
effort tore the plaster from his lips, and screaming out 'Sophy!
Sophy!' rushed into the woman's arms.
Their embrace was but for an instant, however, for the younger man seized the
woman and pushed her out of the room, while the elder easily overpowered his emaciated
victim, and dragged him away through the other door.
For a moment I was left alone in the room, and I sprang to my feet with some vague
idea that I might in some way get a clue to what this house was in which I found
myself.
Fortunately, however, I took no steps, for looking up I saw that the older man was
standing in the door-way with his eyes fixed upon me.
"'That will do, Mr. Melas,' said he.
'You perceive that we have taken you into our confidence over some very private
business.
We should not have troubled you, only that our friend who speaks Greek and who began
these negotiations has been forced to return to the East.
It was quite necessary for us to find some one to take his place, and we were
fortunate in hearing of your powers.' "I bowed.
"'There are five sovereigns here,' said he, walking up to me, 'which will, I hope, be a
sufficient fee.
But remember,' he added, tapping me lightly on the chest and giggling, 'if you speak to
a human soul about this--one human soul, mind--well, may God have mercy upon your
soul!"
"I cannot tell you the loathing and horror with which this insignificant-looking man
inspired me. I could see him better now as the lamp-
light shone upon him.
His features were peaky and sallow, and his little pointed beard was thready and ill-
nourished.
He pushed his face forward as he spoke and his lips and eyelids were continually
twitching like a man with St. Vitus's dance.
I could not help thinking that his strange, catchy little laugh was also a symptom of
some nervous malady.
The terror of his face lay in his eyes, however, steel gray, and glistening coldly
with a malignant, inexorable cruelty in their depths.
"'We shall know if you speak of this,' said he.
'We have our own means of information. Now you will find the carriage waiting, and
my friend will see you on your way.'
"I was hurried through the hall and into the vehicle, again obtaining that momentary
glimpse of trees and a garden.
Mr. Latimer followed closely at my heels, and took his place opposite to me without a
word.
In silence we again drove for an interminable distance with the windows
raised, until at last, just after midnight, the carriage pulled up.
"'You will get down here, Mr. Melas,' said my companion.
'I am sorry to leave you so far from your house, but there is no alternative.
Any attempt upon your part to follow the carriage can only end in injury to
yourself.'
"He opened the door as he spoke, and I had hardly time to spring out when the coachman
lashed the horse and the carriage rattled away.
I looked around me in astonishment.
I was on some sort of a heathy common mottled over with dark clumps of furze-
bushes. Far away stretched a line of houses, with a
light here and there in the upper windows.
On the other side I saw the red signal- lamps of a railway.
"The carriage which had brought me was already out of sight.
I stood gazing round and wondering where on earth I might be, when I saw some one
coming towards me in the darkness. As he came up to me I made out that he was
a railway porter.
"'Can you tell me what place this is?' I asked.
"'Wandsworth Common,' said he. "'Can I get a train into town?'
"'If you walk on a mile or so to Clapham Junction,' said he, 'you'll just be in time
for the last to Victoria.' "So that was the end of my adventure, Mr.
Holmes.
I do not know where I was, nor whom I spoke with, nor anything save what I have told
you.
But I know that there is foul play going on, and I want to help that unhappy man if
I can.
I told the whole story to Mr. Mycroft Holmes next morning, and subsequently to
the police."
We all sat in silence for some little time after listening to this extraordinary
narrative. Then Sherlock looked across at his brother.
"Any steps?" he asked.
Mycroft picked up the Daily News, which was lying on the side-table.
"'Anybody supplying any information to the whereabouts of a Greek gentleman named Paul
Kratides, from Athens, who is unable to speak English, will be rewarded.
A similar reward paid to any one giving information about a Greek lady whose first
name is Sophy. X 2473.'
That was in all the dailies.
No answer." "How about the Greek Legation?"
"I have inquired. They know nothing."
"A wire to the head of the Athens police, then?"
"Sherlock has all the energy of the family," said Mycroft, turning to me.
"Well, you take the case up by all means, and let me know if you do any good."
"Certainly," answered my friend, rising from his chair.
"I'll let you know, and Mr. Melas also.
In the meantime, Mr. Melas, I should certainly be on my guard, if I were you,
for of course they must know through these advertisements that you have betrayed
them."
As we walked home together, Holmes stopped at a telegraph office and sent off several
wires. "You see, Watson," he remarked, "our
evening has been by no means wasted.
Some of my most interesting cases have come to me in this way through Mycroft.
The problem which we have just listened to, although it can admit of but one
explanation, has still some distinguishing features."
"You have hopes of solving it?"
"Well, knowing as much as we do, it will be singular indeed if we fail to discover the
rest.
You must yourself have formed some theory which will explain the facts to which we
have listened." "In a vague way, yes."
"What was your idea, then?"
"It seemed to me to be obvious that this Greek girl had been carried off by the
young Englishman named Harold Latimer." "Carried off from where?"
"Athens, perhaps."
Sherlock Holmes shook his head. "This young man could not talk a word of
Greek. The lady could talk English fairly well.
Inference--that she had been in England some little time, but he had not been in
Greece."
"Well, then, we will presume that she had come on a visit to England, and that this
Harold had persuaded her to fly with him." "That is more probable."
"Then the brother--for that, I fancy, must be the relationship--comes over from Greece
to interfere. He imprudently puts himself into the power
of the young man and his older associate.
They seize him and use violence towards him in order to make him sign some papers to
make over the girl's fortune--of which he may be trustee--to them.
This he refuses to do.
In order to negotiate with him they have to get an interpreter, and they pitch upon
this Mr. Melas, having used some other one before.
The girl is not told of the arrival of her brother, and finds it out by the merest
accident." "Excellent, Watson!" cried Holmes.
"I really fancy that you are not far from the truth.
You see that we hold all the cards, and we have only to fear some sudden act of
violence on their part.
If they give us time we must have them." "But how can we find where this house
lies?"
"Well, if our conjecture is correct and the girl's name is or was Sophy Kratides, we
should have no difficulty in tracing her. That must be our main hope, for the brother
is, of course, a complete stranger.
It is clear that some time has elapsed since this Harold established these
relations with the girl--some weeks, at any rate--since the brother in Greece has had
time to hear of it and come across.
If they have been living in the same place during this time, it is probable that we
shall have some answer to Mycroft's advertisement."
We had reached our house in Baker Street while we had been talking.
Holmes ascended the stair first, and as he opened the door of our room he gave a start
of surprise.
Looking over his shoulder, I was equally astonished.
His brother Mycroft was sitting smoking in the arm-chair.
"Come in, Sherlock!
Come in, sir," said he blandly, smiling at our surprised faces.
"You don't expect such energy from me, do you, Sherlock?
But somehow this case attracts me."
"How did you get here?" "I passed you in a hansom."
"There has been some new development?" "I had an answer to my advertisement."
"Ah!"
"Yes, it came within a few minutes of your leaving."
"And to what effect?" Mycroft Holmes took out a sheet of paper.
"Here it is," said he, "written with a J pen on royal cream paper by a middle-aged
man with a weak constitution.
'Sir,' he says, 'in answer to your advertisement of to-day's date, I beg to
inform you that I know the young lady in question very well.
If you should care to call upon me I could give you some particulars as to her painful
history. She is living at present at The Myrtles,
Beckenham.
Yours faithfully, J. Davenport.' "He writes from Lower Brixton," said
Mycroft Holmes.
"Do you not think that we might drive to him now, Sherlock, and learn these
particulars?" "My dear Mycroft, the brother's life is
more valuable than the sister's story.
I think we should call at Scotland Yard for Inspector Gregson, and go straight out to
Beckenham. We know that a man is being done to death,
and every hour may be vital."
"Better pick up Mr. Melas on our way," I suggested.
"We may need an interpreter." "Excellent," said Sherlock Holmes.
"Send the boy for a four-wheeler, and we shall be off at once."
He opened the table-drawer as he spoke, and I noticed that he slipped his revolver into
his pocket.
"Yes," said he, in answer to my glance; "I should say from what we have heard, that we
are dealing with a particularly dangerous gang."
It was almost dark before we found ourselves in Pall Mall, at the rooms of Mr.
Melas. A gentleman had just called for him, and he
was gone.
"Can you tell me where?" asked Mycroft Holmes.
"I don't know, sir," answered the woman who had opened the door; "I only know that he
drove away with the gentleman in a carriage."
"Did the gentleman give a name?"
"No, sir." "He wasn't a tall, handsome, dark young
man?" "Oh, no, sir.
He was a little gentleman, with glasses, thin in the face, but very pleasant in his
ways, for he was laughing all the time that he was talking."
"Come along!" cried Sherlock Holmes, abruptly.
"This grows serious," he observed, as we drove to Scotland Yard.
"These men have got hold of Melas again.
He is a man of no physical courage, as they are well aware from their experience the
other night. This villain was able to terrorize him the
instant that he got into his presence.
No doubt they want his professional services, but, having used him, they may be
inclined to punish him for what they will regard as his treachery."
Our hope was that, by taking train, we might get to Beckenham as soon or sooner
than the carriage.
On reaching Scotland Yard, however, it was more than an hour before we could get
Inspector Gregson and comply with the legal formalities which would enable us to enter
the house.
It was a quarter to ten before we reached London Bridge, and half past before the
four of us alighted on the Beckenham platform.
A drive of half a mile brought us to The Myrtles--a large, dark house standing back
from the road in its own grounds. Here we dismissed our cab, and made our way
up the drive together.
"The windows are all dark," remarked the inspector.
"The house seems deserted." "Our birds are flown and the nest empty,"
said Holmes.
"Why do you say so?" "A carriage heavily loaded with luggage has
passed out during the last hour." The inspector laughed.
"I saw the wheel-tracks in the light of the gate-lamp, but where does the luggage come
in?" "You may have observed the same wheel-
tracks going the other way.
But the outward-bound ones were very much deeper--so much so that we can say for a
certainty that there was a very considerable weight on the carriage."
"You get a trifle beyond me there," said the inspector, shrugging his shoulder.
"It will not be an easy door to force, but we will try if we cannot make some one hear
us."
He hammered loudly at the knocker and pulled at the bell, but without any
success. Holmes had slipped away, but he came back
in a few minutes.
"I have a window open," said he.
"It is a mercy that you are on the side of the force, and not against it, Mr. Holmes,"
remarked the inspector, as he noted the clever way in which my friend had forced
back the catch.
"Well, I think that under the circumstances we may enter without an invitation."
One after the other we made our way into a large apartment, which was evidently that
in which Mr. Melas had found himself.
The inspector had lit his lantern, and by its light we could see the two doors, the
curtain, the lamp, and the suit of Japanese mail as he had described them.
On the table lay two glasses, and empty brandy-bottle, and the remains of a meal.
"What is that?" asked Holmes, suddenly. We all stood still and listened.
A low moaning sound was coming from somewhere over our heads.
Holmes rushed to the door and out into the hall.
The dismal noise came from upstairs.
He dashed up, the inspector and I at his heels, while his brother Mycroft followed
as quickly as his great bulk would permit.
Three doors faced up upon the second floor, and it was from the central of these that
the sinister sounds were issuing, sinking sometimes into a dull mumble and rising
again into a shrill whine.
It was locked, but the key had been left on the outside.
Holmes flung open the door and rushed in, but he was out again in an instant, with
his hand to his throat.
"It's charcoal," he cried. "Give it time.
It will clear."
Peering in, we could see that the only light in the room came from a dull blue
flame which flickered from a small brass tripod in the centre.
It threw a livid, unnatural circle upon the floor, while in the shadows beyond we saw
the vague loom of two figures which crouched against the wall.
From the open door there reeked a horrible poisonous exhalation which set us gasping
and coughing.
Holmes rushed to the top of the stairs to draw in the fresh air, and then, dashing
into the room, he threw up the window and hurled the brazen tripod out into the
garden.
"We can enter in a minute," he gasped, darting out again.
"Where is a candle? I doubt if we could strike a match in that
atmosphere.
Hold the light at the door and we shall get them out, Mycroft, now!"
With a rush we got to the poisoned men and dragged them out into the well-lit hall.
Both of them were blue-lipped and insensible, with swollen, congested faces
and protruding eyes.
Indeed, so distorted were their features that, save for his black beard and stout
figure, we might have failed to recognize in one of them the Greek interpreter who
had parted from us only a few hours before at the Diogenes Club.
His hands and feet were securely strapped together, and he bore over one eye the
marks of a violent blow.
The other, who was secured in a similar fashion, was a tall man in the last stage
of emaciation, with several strips of sticking-plaster arranged in a grotesque
pattern over his face.
He had ceased to moan as we laid him down, and a glance showed me that for him at
least our aid had come too late.
Mr. Melas, however, still lived, and in less than an hour, with the aid of ammonia
and brandy I had the satisfaction of seeing him open his eyes, and of knowing that my
hand had drawn him back from that dark valley in which all paths meet.
It was a simple story which he had to tell, and one which did but confirm our own
deductions.
His visitor, on entering his rooms, had drawn a life-preserver from his sleeve, and
had so impressed him with the fear of instant and inevitable death that he had
kidnapped him for the second time.
Indeed, it was almost mesmeric, the effect which this giggling ruffian had produced
upon the unfortunate linguist, for he could not speak of him save with trembling hands
and a blanched cheek.
He had been taken swiftly to Beckenham, and had acted as interpreter in a second
interview, even more dramatic than the first, in which the two Englishmen had
menaced their prisoner with instant death if he did not comply with their demands.
Finally, finding him proof against every threat, they had hurled him back into his
prison, and after reproaching Melas with his treachery, which appeared from the
newspaper advertisement, they had stunned
him with a blow from a stick, and he remembered nothing more until he found us
bending over him.
And this was the singular case of the Grecian Interpreter, the explanation of
which is still involved in some mystery.
We were able to find out, by communicating with the gentleman who had answered the
advertisement, that the unfortunate young lady came of a wealthy Grecian family, and
that she had been on a visit to some friends in England.
While there she had met a young man named Harold Latimer, who had acquired an
ascendancy over he and had eventually persuaded her to fly with him.
Her friends, shocked at the event, had contented themselves with informing her
brother at Athens, and had then washed their hands of the matter.
The brother, on his arrival in England, had imprudently placed himself in the power of
Latimer and of his associate, whose name was Wilson Kemp--a man of the foulest
antecedents.
These two, finding that through his ignorance of the language he was helpless
in their hands, had kept him a prisoner, and had endeavored by cruelty and
starvation to make him sign away his own and his sister's property.
They had kept him in the house without the girl's knowledge, and the plaster over the
face had been for the purpose of making recognition difficult in case she should
ever catch a glimpse of him.
Her feminine perception, however, had instantly seen through the disguise when,
on the occasion of the interpreter's visit, she had seen him for the first time.
The poor girl, however, was herself a prisoner, for there was no one about the
house except the man who acted as coachman, and his wife, both of whom were tools of
the conspirators.
Finding that their secret was out, and that their prisoner was not to be coerced, the
two villains with the girl had fled away at a few hours' notice from the furnished
house which they had hired, having first,
as they thought, taken vengeance both upon the man who had defied and the one who had
betrayed them. Months afterwards a curious newspaper
cutting reached us from Buda-Pesth.
It told how two Englishmen who had been traveling with a woman had met with a
tragic end.
They had each been stabbed, it seems, and the Hungarian police were of opinion that
they had quarreled and had inflicted mortal injuries upon each other.
Holmes, however, is, I fancy, of a different way of thinking, and holds to
this day that, if one could find the Grecian girl, one might learn how the
wrongs of herself and her brother came to be avenged.
>
Adventure X. The Naval Treaty
The July which immediately succeeded my marriage was made memorable by three cases
of interest, in which I had the privilege of being associated with Sherlock Holmes
and of studying his methods.
I find them recorded in my notes under the headings of "The Adventure of the Second
Stain," "The Adventure of the Naval Treaty," and "The Adventure of the Tired
Captain."
The first of these, however, deals with interest of such importance and implicates
so many of the first families in the kingdom that for many years it will be
impossible to make it public.
No case, however, in which Holmes was engaged has ever illustrated the value of
his analytical methods so clearly or has impressed those who were associated with
him so deeply.
I still retain an almost verbatim report of the interview in which he demonstrated the
true facts of the case to Monsieur Dubugue of the Paris police, and Fritz von
Waldbaum, the well-known specialist of
Dantzig, both of whom had wasted their energies upon what proved to be side-
issues. The new century will have come, however,
before the story can be safely told.
Meanwhile I pass on to the second on my list, which promised also at one time to be
of national importance, and was marked by several incidents which give it a quite
unique character.
During my school-days I had been intimately associated with a lad named Percy Phelps,
who was of much the same age as myself, though he was two classes ahead of me.
He was a very brilliant boy, and carried away every prize which the school had to
offer, finished his exploits by winning a scholarship which sent him on to continue
his triumphant career at Cambridge.
He was, I remember, extremely well connected, and even when we were all little
boys together we knew that his mother's brother was Lord Holdhurst, the great
conservative politician.
This gaudy relationship did him little good at school.
On the contrary, it seemed rather a piquant thing to us to chevy him about the
playground and hit him over the shins with a wicket.
But it was another thing when he came out into the world.
I heard vaguely that his abilities and the influences which he commanded had won him a
good position at the Foreign Office, and then he passed completely out of my mind
until the following letter recalled his existence:
Briarbrae, Woking.
My dear Watson,--I have no doubt that you can remember "Tadpole" Phelps, who was in
the fifth form when you were in the third.
It is possible even that you may have heard that through my uncle's influence I
obtained a good appointment at the Foreign Office, and that I was in a situation of
trust and honor until a horrible misfortune came suddenly to blast my career.
There is no use writing of the details of that dreadful event.
In the event of your acceding to my request it is probably that I shall have to narrate
them to you.
I have only just recovered from nine weeks of brain-fever, and am still exceedingly
weak. Do you think that you could bring your
friend Mr. Holmes down to see me?
I should like to have his opinion of the case, though the authorities assure me that
nothing more can be done. Do try to bring him down, and as soon as
possible.
Every minute seems an hour while I live in this state of horrible suspense.
Assure him that if I have not asked his advice sooner it was not because I did not
appreciate his talents, but because I have been off my head ever since the blow fell.
Now I am clear again, though I dare not think of it too much for fear of a relapse.
I am still so weak that I have to write, as you see, by dictating.
Do try to bring him.
Your old school-fellow, Percy Phelps.
There was something that touched me as I read this letter, something pitiable in the
reiterated appeals to bring Holmes.
So moved was I that even had it been a difficult matter I should have tried it,
but of course I knew well that Holmes loved his art, so that he was ever as ready to
bring his aid as his client could be to receive it.
My wife agreed with me that not a moment should be lost in laying the matter before
him, and so within an hour of breakfast- time I found myself back once more in the
old rooms in Baker Street.
Holmes was seated at his side-table clad in his dressing-gown, and working hard over a
chemical investigation.
A large curved retort was boiling furiously in the bluish flame of a Bunsen burner, and
the distilled drops were condensing into a two-litre measure.
My friend hardly glanced up as I entered, and I, seeing that his investigation must
be of importance, seated myself in an arm- chair and waited.
He dipped into this bottle or that, drawing out a few drops of each with his glass
pipette, and finally brought a test-tube containing a solution over to the table.
In his right hand he held a slip of litmus- paper.
"You come at a crisis, Watson," said he. "If this paper remains blue, all is well.
If it turns red, it means a man's life."
He dipped it into the test-tube and it flushed at once into a dull, dirty crimson.
"Hum! I thought as much!" he cried. "I will be at your service in an instant,
Watson.
You will find tobacco in the Persian slipper."
He turned to his desk and scribbled off several telegrams, which were handed over
to the page-boy.
Then he threw himself down into the chair opposite, and drew up his knees until his
fingers clasped round his long, thin shins. "A very commonplace little murder," said
he.
"You've got something better, I fancy. You are the stormy petrel of crime, Watson.
What is it?" I handed him the letter, which he read with
the most concentrated attention.
"It does not tell us very much, does it?" he remarked, as he handed it back to me.
"Hardly anything." "And yet the writing is of interest."
"But the writing is not his own."
"Precisely. It is a woman's."
"A man's surely," I cried. "No, a woman's, and a woman of rare
character.
You see, at the commencement of an investigation it is something to know that
your client is in close contact with some one who, for good or evil, has an
exceptional nature.
My interest is already awakened in the case.
If you are ready we will start at once for Woking, and see this diplomatist who is in
such evil case, and the lady to whom he dictates his letters."
We were fortunate enough to catch an early train at Waterloo, and in a little under an
hour we found ourselves among the fir-woods and the heather of Woking.
Briarbrae proved to be a large detached house standing in extensive grounds within
a few minutes' walk of the station.
On sending in our cards we were shown into an elegantly appointed drawing-room, where
we were joined in a few minutes by a rather stout man who received us with much
hospitality.
His age may have been nearer forty than thirty, but his cheeks were so ruddy and
his eyes so merry that he still conveyed the impression of a plump and mischievous
boy.
"I am so glad that you have come," said he, shaking our hands with effusion.
"Percy has been inquiring for you all morning.
Ah, poor old chap, he clings to any straw!
His father and his mother asked me to see you, for the mere mention of the subject is
very painful to them." "We have had no details yet," observed
Holmes.
"I perceive that you are not yourself a member of the family."
Our acquaintance looked surprised, and then, glancing down, he began to laugh.
"Of course you saw the J H monogram on my locket," said he.
"For a moment I thought you had done something clever.
Joseph Harrison is my name, and as Percy is to marry my sister Annie I shall at least
be a relation by marriage.
You will find my sister in his room, for she has nursed him hand-and-foot this two
months back. Perhaps we'd better go in at once, for I
know how impatient he is."
The chamber in which we were shown was on the same floor as the drawing-room.
It was furnished partly as a sitting and partly as a bedroom, with flowers arranged
daintily in every nook and corner.
A young man, very pale and worn, was lying upon a sofa near the open window, through
which came the rich scent of the garden and the balmy summer air.
A woman was sitting beside him, who rose as we entered.
"Shall I leave, Percy?" she asked. He clutched her hand to detain her.
"How are you, Watson?" said he, cordially.
"I should never have known you under that moustache, and I dare say you would not be
prepared to swear to me. This I presume is your celebrated friend,
Mr. Sherlock Holmes?"
I introduced him in a few words, and we both sat down.
The stout young man had left us, but his sister still remained with her hand in that
of the invalid.
She was a striking-looking woman, a little short and thick for symmetry, but with a
beautiful olive complexion, large, dark, Italian eyes, and a wealth of deep black
hair.
Her rich tints made the white face of her companion the more worn and haggard by the
contrast. "I won't waste your time," said he, raising
himself upon the sofa.
"I'll plunge into the matter without further preamble.
I was a happy and successful man, Mr. Holmes, and on the eve of being married,
when a sudden and dreadful misfortune wrecked all my prospects in life.
"I was, as Watson may have told you, in the Foreign Office, and through the influences
of my uncle, Lord Holdhurst, I rose rapidly to a responsible position.
When my uncle became foreign minister in this administration he gave me several
missions of trust, and as I always brought them to a successful conclusion, he came at
last to have the utmost confidence in my ability and tact.
"Nearly ten weeks ago--to be more accurate, on the 23d of May--he called me into his
private room, and, after complimenting me on the good work which I had done, he
informed me that he had a new commission of trust for me to execute.
"'This,' said he, taking a gray roll of paper from his bureau, 'is the original of
that secret treaty between England and Italy of which, I regret to say, some
rumors have already got into the public press.
It is of enormous importance that nothing further should leak out.
The French or the Russian embassy would pay an immense sum to learn the contents of
these papers.
They should not leave my bureau were it not that it is absolutely necessary to have
them copied. You have a desk in your office?"
"'Yes, sir.'
"'Then take the treaty and lock it up there.
I shall give directions that you may remain behind when the others go, so that you may
copy it at your leisure without fear of being overlooked.
When you have finished, relock both the original and the draft in the desk, and
hand them over to me personally to-morrow morning.'
"I took the papers and--"
"Excuse me an instant," said Holmes. "Were you alone during this conversation?"
"Absolutely." "In a large room?"
"Thirty feet each way."
"In the centre?" "Yes, about it."
"And speaking low?" "My uncle's voice is always remarkably low.
I hardly spoke at all."
"Thank you," said Holmes, shutting his eyes; "pray go on."
"I did exactly what he indicated, and waited until the other clerks had departed.
One of them in my room, Charles Gorot, had some arrears of work to make up, so I left
him there and went out to dine. When I returned he was gone.
I was anxious to hurry my work, for I knew that Joseph--the Mr. Harrison whom you saw
just now--was in town, and that he would travel down to Woking by the eleven-o'clock
train, and I wanted if possible to catch it.
"When I came to examine the treaty I saw at once that it was of such importance that my
uncle had been guilty of no exaggeration in what he had said.
Without going into details, I may say that it defined the position of Great Britain
towards the Triple Alliance, and fore- shadowed the policy which this country
would pursue in the event of the French
fleet gaining a complete ascendancy over that of Italy in the Mediterranean.
The questions treated in it were purely naval.
At the end were the signatures of the high dignitaries who had signed it.
I glanced my eyes over it, and then settled down to my task of copying.
"It was a long document, written in the French language, and containing twenty-six
separate articles.
I copied as quickly as I could, but at nine o'clock I had only done nine articles, and
it seemed hopeless for me to attempt to catch my train.
I was feeling drowsy and stupid, partly from my dinner and also from the effects of
a long day's work. A cup of coffee would clear my brain.
A commissionnaire remains all night in a little lodge at the foot of the stairs, and
is in the habit of making coffee at his spirit-lamp for any of the officials who
may be working over time.
I rang the bell, therefore, to summon him. "To my surprise, it was a woman who
answered the summons, a large, coarse- faced, elderly woman, in an apron.
She explained that she was the commissionnaire's wife, who did the
charing, and I gave her the order for the coffee.
"I wrote two more articles and then, feeling more drowsy than ever, I rose and
walked up and down the room to stretch my legs.
My coffee had not yet come, and I wondered what was the cause of the delay could be.
Opening the door, I started down the corridor to find out.
There was a straight passage, dimly lighted, which led from the room in which I
had been working, and was the only exit from it.
It ended in a curving staircase, with the commissionnaire's lodge in the passage at
the bottom.
Half way down this staircase is a small landing, with another passage running into
it at right angles.
This second one leads by means of a second small stair to a side door, used by
servants, and also as a short cut by clerks when coming from Charles Street.
Here is a rough chart of the place."
"Thank you. I think that I quite follow you," said
Sherlock Holmes. "It is of the utmost importance that you
should notice this point.
I went down the stairs and into the hall, where I found the commissionnaire fast
asleep in his box, with the kettle boiling furiously upon the spirit-lamp.
I took off the kettle and blew out the lamp, for the water was spurting over the
floor.
Then I put out my hand and was about to shake the man, who was still sleeping
soundly, when a bell over his head rang loudly, and he woke with a start.
"'Mr. Phelps, sir!' said he, looking at me in bewilderment.
"'I came down to see if my coffee was ready.'
"'I was boiling the kettle when I fell asleep, sir.'
He looked at me and then up at the still quivering bell with an ever-growing
astonishment upon his face.
"'If you was here, sir, then who rang the bell?' he asked.
"'The bell!' I cried.
'What bell is it?'
"'It's the bell of the room you were working in.'
"A cold hand seemed to close round my heart.
Some one, then, was in that room where my precious treaty lay upon the table.
I ran frantically up the stair and along the passage.
There was no one in the corridors, Mr. Holmes.
There was no one in the room.
All was exactly as I left it, save only that the papers which had been committed to
my care had been taken from the desk on which they lay.
The copy was there, and the original was gone."
Holmes sat up in his chair and rubbed his hands.
I could see that the problem was entirely to his heart.
"Pray, what did you do then?" he murmured.
"I recognized in an instant that the thief must have come up the stairs from the side
door. Of course I must have met him if he had
come the other way."
"You were satisfied that he could not have been concealed in the room all the time, or
in the corridor which you have just described as dimly lighted?"
"It is absolutely impossible.
A rat could not conceal himself either in the room or the corridor.
There is no cover at all." "Thank you.
Pray proceed."
"The commissionnaire, seeing by my pale face that something was to be feared, had
followed me upstairs.
Now we both rushed along the corridor and down the steep steps which led to Charles
Street. The door at the bottom was closed, but
unlocked.
We flung it open and rushed out. I can distinctly remember that as we did so
there came three chimes from a neighboring clock.
It was quarter to ten."
"That is of enormous importance," said Holmes, making a note upon his shirt-cuff.
"The night was very dark, and a thin, warm rain was falling.
There was no one in Charles Street, but a great traffic was going on, as usual, in
Whitehall, at the extremity.
We rushed along the pavement, bare-headed as we were, and at the far corner we found
a policeman standing. "'A robbery has been committed,' I gasped.
'A document of immense value has been stolen from the Foreign Office.
Has any one passed this way?'
"'I have been standing here for a quarter of an hour, sir,' said he; 'only one person
has passed during that time--a woman, tall and elderly, with a Paisley shawl.'
"'Ah, that is only my wife,' cried the commissionnaire; 'has no one else passed?'
"'No one.'
"'Then it must be the other way that the thief took,' cried the fellow, tugging at
my sleeve.
"'But I was not satisfied, and the attempts which he made to draw me away increased my
suspicions. "'Which way did the woman go?'
I cried.
"'I don't know, sir. I noticed her pass, but I had no special
reason for watching her. She seemed to be in a hurry.'
"'How long ago was it?'
"'Oh, not very many minutes.' "'Within the last five?'
"'Well, it could not be more than five.'
"'You're only wasting your time, sir, and every minute now is of importance,' cried
the commissionnaire; 'take my word for it that my old woman has nothing to do with
it, and come down to the other end of the street.
Well, if you won't, I will.' And with that he rushed off in the other
direction.
"But I was after him in an instant and caught him by the sleeve.
"'Where do you live?' said I. "'16 Ivy Lane, Brixton,' he answered.
'But don't let yourself be drawn away upon a false scent, Mr. Phelps.
Come to the other end of the street and let us see if we can hear of anything.'
"Nothing was to be lost by following his advice.
With the policeman we both hurried down, but only to find the street full of
traffic, many people coming and going, but all only too eager to get to a place of
safety upon so wet a night.
There was no lounger who could tell us who had passed.
"Then we returned to the office, and searched the stairs and the passage without
result.
The corridor which led to the room was laid down with a kind of creamy linoleum which
shows an impression very easily. We examined it very carefully, but found no
outline of any footmark."
"Had it been raining all evening?" "Since about seven."
"How is it, then, that the woman who came into the room about nine left no traces
with her muddy boots?"
"I am glad you raised the point. It occurred to me at the time.
The charwomen are in the habit of taking off their boots at the commissionnaire's
office, and putting on list slippers."
"That is very clear. There were no marks, then, though the night
was a wet one? The chain of events is certainly one of
extraordinary interest.
What did you do next? "We examined the room also.
There is no possibility of a secret door, and the windows are quite thirty feet from
the ground.
Both of them were fastened on the inside. The carpet prevents any possibility of a
trap-door, and the ceiling is of the ordinary whitewashed kind.
I will pledge my life that whoever stole my papers could only have come through the
door." "How about the fireplace?"
"They use none.
There is a stove. The bell-rope hangs from the wire just to
the right of my desk. Whoever rang it must have come right up to
the desk to do it.
But why should any criminal wish to ring the bell?
It is a most insoluble mystery." "Certainly the incident was unusual.
What were your next steps?
You examined the room, I presume, to see if the intruder had left any traces--any
cigar-end or dropped glove or hairpin or other trifle?"
"There was nothing of the sort."
"No smell?" "Well, we never thought of that."
"Ah, a scent of tobacco would have been worth a great deal to us in such an
investigation."
"I never smoke myself, so I think I should have observed it if there had been any
smell of tobacco. There was absolutely no clue of any kind.
The only tangible fact was that the commissionnaire's wife--Mrs. Tangey was the
name--had hurried out of the place.
He could give no explanation save that it was about the time when the woman always
went home.
The policeman and I agreed that our best plan would be to seize the woman before she
could get rid of the papers, presuming that she had them.
"The alarm had reached Scotland Yard by this time, and Mr. Forbes, the detective,
came round at once and took up the case with a great deal of energy.
We hired a hansom, and in half an hour we were at the address which had been given to
us. A young woman opened the door, who proved
to be Mrs. Tangey's eldest daughter.
Her mother had not come back yet, and we were shown into the front room to wait.
"About ten minutes later a knock came at the door, and here we made the one serious
mistake for which I blame myself.
Instead of opening the door ourselves, we allowed the girl to do so.
We heard her say, 'Mother, there are two men in the house waiting to see you,' and
an instant afterwards we heard the patter of feet rushing down the passage.
Forbes flung open the door, and we both ran into the back room or kitchen, but the
woman had got there before us.
She stared at us with defiant eyes, and then, suddenly recognizing me, an
expression of absolute astonishment came over her face.
"'Why, if it isn't Mr. Phelps, of the office!' she cried.
"'Come, come, who did you think we were when you ran away from us?' asked my
companion.
"'I thought you were the brokers,' said she, 'we have had some trouble with a
tradesman.' "'That's not quite good enough,' answered
Forbes.
'We have reason to believe that you have taken a paper of importance from the
Foreign Office, and that you ran in here to dispose of it.
You must come back with us to Scotland Yard to be searched.'
"It was in vain that she protested and resisted.
A four-wheeler was brought, and we all three drove back in it.
We had first made an examination of the kitchen, and especially of the kitchen
fire, to see whether she might have made away with the papers during the instant
that she was alone.
There were no signs, however, of any ashes or scraps.
When we reached Scotland Yard she was handed over at once to the female searcher.
I waited in an agony of suspense until she came back with her report.
There were no signs of the papers. "Then for the first time the horror of my
situation came in its full force.
Hitherto I had been acting, and action had numbed thought.
I had been so confident of regaining the treaty at once that I had not dared to
think of what would be the consequence if I failed to do so.
But now there was nothing more to be done, and I had leisure to realize my position.
It was horrible. Watson there would tell you that I was a
nervous, sensitive boy at school.
It is my nature. I thought of my uncle and of his colleagues
in the Cabinet, of the shame which I had brought upon him, upon myself, upon every
one connected with me.
What though I was the victim of an extraordinary accident?
No allowance is made for accidents where diplomatic interests are at stake.
I was ruined, shamefully, hopelessly ruined.
I don't know what I did. I fancy I must have made a scene.
I have a dim recollection of a group of officials who crowded round me, endeavoring
to soothe me. One of them drove down with me to Waterloo,
and saw me into the Woking train.
I believe that he would have come all the way had it not been that Dr. Ferrier, who
lives near me, was going down by that very train.
The doctor most kindly took charge of me, and it was well he did so, for I had a fit
in the station, and before we reached home I was practically a raving maniac.
"You can imagine the state of things here when they were roused from their beds by
the doctor's ringing and found me in this condition.
Poor Annie here and my mother were broken- hearted.
Dr. Ferrier had just heard enough from the detective at the station to be able to give
an idea of what had happened, and his story did not mend matters.
It was evident to all that I was in for a long illness, so Joseph was bundled out of
this cheery bedroom, and it was turned into a sick-room for me.
Here I have lain, Mr. Holmes, for over nine weeks, unconscious, and raving with brain-
fever.
If it had not been for Miss Harrison here and for the doctor's care I should not be
speaking to you now.
She has nursed me by day and a hired nurse has looked after me by night, for in my mad
fits I was capable of anything.
Slowly my reason has cleared, but it is only during the last three days that my
memory has quite returned. Sometimes I wish that it never had.
The first thing that I did was to wire to Mr. Forbes, who had the case in hand.
He came out, and assures me that, though everything has been done, no trace of a
clue has been discovered.
The commissionnaire and his wife have been examined in every way without any light
being thrown upon the matter.
The suspicions of the police then rested upon young Gorot, who, as you may remember,
stayed over time in the office that night.
His remaining behind and his French name were really the only two points which could
suggest suspicion; but, as a matter of fact, I did not begin work until he had
gone, and his people are of Huguenot
extraction, but as English in sympathy and tradition as you and I are.
Nothing was found to implicate him in any way, and there the matter dropped.
I turn to you, Mr. Holmes, as absolutely my last hope.
If you fail me, then my honor as well as my position are forever forfeited."
The invalid sank back upon his cushions, tired out by this long recital, while his
nurse poured him out a glass of some stimulating medicine.
Holmes sat silently, with his head thrown back and his eyes closed, in an attitude
which might seem listless to a stranger, but which I knew betokened the most intense
self-absorption.
"You statement has been so explicit," said he at last, "that you have really left me
very few questions to ask. There is one of the very utmost importance,
however.
Did you tell any one that you had this special task to perform?"
"No one." "Not Miss Harrison here, for example?"
"No. I had not been back to Woking between getting the order and executing the
commission." "And none of your people had by chance been
to see you?"
"None." "Did any of them know their way about in
the office?" "Oh, yes, all of them had been shown over
it."
"Still, of course, if you said nothing to any one about the treaty these inquiries
are irrelevant." "I said nothing."
"Do you know anything of the commissionnaire?"
"Nothing except that he is an old soldier." "What regiment?"
"Oh, I have heard--Coldstream Guards."
"Thank you. I have no doubt I can get details from
Forbes.
The authorities are excellent at amassing facts, though they do not always use them
to advantage. What a lovely thing a rose is!"
He walked past the couch to the open window, and held up the drooping stalk of a
moss-rose, looking down at the dainty blend of crimson and green.
It was a new phase of his character to me, for I had never before seen him show any
keen interest in natural objects.
"There is nothing in which deduction is so necessary as in religion," said he, leaning
with his back against the shutters. "It can be built up as an exact science by
the reasoner.
Our highest assurance of the goodness of Providence seems to me to rest in the
flowers.
All other things, our powers our desires, our food, are all really necessary for our
existence in the first instance. But this rose is an extra.
Its smell and its color are an embellishment of life, not a condition of
it.
It is only goodness which gives extras, and so I say again that we have much to hope
from the flowers."
Percy Phelps and his nurse looked at Holmes during this demonstration with surprise and
a good deal of disappointment written upon their faces.
He had fallen into a reverie, with the moss-rose between his fingers.
It had lasted some minutes before the young lady broke in upon it.
"Do you see any prospect of solving this mystery, Mr. Holmes?" she asked, with a
touch of asperity in her voice. "Oh, the mystery!" he answered, coming back
with a start to the realities of life.
"Well, it would be absurd to deny that the case is a very abstruse and complicated
one, but I can promise you that I will look into the matter and let you know any points
which may strike me."
"Do you see any clue?" "You have furnished me with seven, but, of
course, I must test them before I can pronounce upon their value."
"You suspect some one?"
"I suspect myself." "What!"
"Of coming to conclusions too rapidly." "Then go to London and test your
conclusions."
"Your advice is very excellent, Miss Harrison," said Holmes, rising.
"I think, Watson, we cannot do better. Do not allow yourself to indulge in false
hopes, Mr. Phelps.
The affair is a very tangled one." "I shall be in a fever until I see you
again," cried the diplomatist.
"Well, I'll come out by the same train to- morrow, though it's more than likely that
my report will be a negative one." "God bless you for promising to come,"
cried our client.
"It gives me fresh life to know that something is being done.
By the way, I have had a letter from Lord Holdhurst."
"Ha! What did he say?"
"He was cold, but not harsh. I dare say my severe illness prevented him
from being that.
He repeated that the matter was of the utmost importance, and added that no steps
would be taken about my future--by which he means, of course, my dismissal--until my
health was restored and I had an opportunity of repairing my misfortune."
"Well, that was reasonable and considerate," said Holmes.
"Come, Watson, for we have a good day's work before us in town."
Mr. Joseph Harrison drove us down to the station, and we were soon whirling up in a
Portsmouth train.
Holmes was sunk in profound thought, and hardly opened his mouth until we had passed
Clapham Junction.
"It's a very cheery thing to come into London by any of these lines which run
high, and allow you to look down upon the houses like this."
I thought he was joking, for the view was sordid enough, but he soon explained
himself.
"Look at those big, isolated clumps of building rising up above the slates, like
brick islands in a lead-colored sea." "The board-schools."
"Light-houses, my boy!
Beacons of the future! Capsules with hundreds of bright little
seeds in each, out of which will spring the wise, better England of the future.
I suppose that man Phelps does not drink?"
"I should not think so." "Nor should I, but we are bound to take
every possibility into account.
The poor devil has certainly got himself into very deep water, and it's a question
whether we shall ever be able to get him ashore.
What did you think of Miss Harrison?"
"A girl of strong character." "Yes, but she is a good sort, or I am
mistaken.
She and her brother are the only children of an iron-master somewhere up
Northumberland way.
He got engaged to her when traveling last winter, and she came down to be introduced
to his people, with her brother as escort.
Then came the smash, and she stayed on to nurse her lover, while brother Joseph,
finding himself pretty snug, stayed on too. I've been making a few independent
inquiries, you see.
But to-day must be a day of inquiries." "My practice--" I began.
"Oh, if you find your own cases more interesting than mine--" said Holmes, with
some asperity.
"I was going to say that my practice could get along very well for a day or two, since
it is the slackest time in the year." "Excellent," said he, recovering his good-
humor.
"Then we'll look into this matter together. I think that we should begin by seeing
Forbes.
He can probably tell us all the details we want until we know from what side the case
is to be approached." "You said you had a clue?"
"Well, we have several, but we can only test their value by further inquiry.
The most difficult crime to track is the one which is purposeless.
Now this is not purposeless.
Who is it who profits by it? There is the French ambassador, there is
the Russian, there is whoever might sell it to either of these, and there is Lord
Holdhurst."
"Lord Holdhurst!" "Well, it is just conceivable that a
statesman might find himself in a position where he was not sorry to have such a
document accidentally destroyed."
"Not a statesman with the honorable record of Lord Holdhurst?"
"It is a possibility and we cannot afford to disregard it.
We shall see the noble lord to-day and find out if he can tell us anything.
Meanwhile I have already set inquiries on foot."
"Already?"
"Yes, I sent wires from Woking station to every evening paper in London.
This advertisement will appear in each of them."
He handed over a sheet torn from a note- book.
On it was scribbled in pencil: "L10 reward.
The number of the cab which dropped a fare at or about the door of the Foreign Office
in Charles Street at quarter to ten in the evening of May 23d.
Apply 221 B, Baker Street."
"You are confident that the thief came in a cab?"
"If not, there is no harm done.
But if Mr. Phelps is correct in stating that there is no hiding-place either in the
room or the corridors, then the person must have come from outside.
If he came from outside on so wet a night, and yet left no trace of damp upon the
linoleum, which was examined within a few minutes of his passing, then it is
exceeding probable that he came in a cab.
Yes, I think that we may safely deduce a cab."
"It sounds plausible." "That is one of the clues of which I spoke.
It may lead us to something.
And then, of course, there is the bell-- which is the most distinctive feature of
the case. Why should the bell ring?
Was it the thief who did it out of bravado?
Or was it some one who was with the thief who did it in order to prevent the crime?
Or was it an accident? Or was it--?"
He sank back into the state of intense and silent thought from which he had emerged;
but it seemed to me, accustomed as I was to his every mood, that some new possibility
had dawned suddenly upon him.
It was twenty past three when we reached our terminus, and after a hasty luncheon at
the buffet we pushed on at once to Scotland Yard.
Holmes had already wired to Forbes, and we found him waiting to receive us--a small,
foxy man with a sharp but by no means amiable expression.
He was decidedly frigid in his manner to us, especially when he heard the errand
upon which we had come. "I've heard of your methods before now, Mr.
Holmes," said he, tartly.
"You are ready enough to use all the information that the police can lay at your
disposal, and then you try to finish the case yourself and bring discredit on them."
"On the contrary," said Holmes, "out of my last fifty-three cases my name has only
appeared in four, and the police have had all the credit in forty-nine.
I don't blame you for not knowing this, for you are young and inexperienced, but if you
wish to get on in your new duties you will work with me and not against me."
"I'd be very glad of a hint or two," said the detective, changing his manner.
"I've certainly had no credit from the case so far."
"What steps have you taken?"
"Tangey, the commissionnaire, has been shadowed.
He left the Guards with a good character and we can find nothing against him.
His wife is a bad lot, though.
I fancy she knows more about this than appears."
"Have you shadowed her?" "We have set one of our women on to her.
Mrs. Tangey drinks, and our woman has been with her twice when she was well on, but
she could get nothing out of her." "I understand that they have had brokers in
the house?"
"Yes, but they were paid off." "Where did the money come from?"
"That was all right. His pension was due.
They have not shown any sign of being in funds."
"What explanation did she give of having answered the bell when Mr. Phelps rang for
the coffee?"
"She said that he husband was very tired and she wished to relieve him."
"Well, certainly that would agree with his being found a little later asleep in his
chair.
There is nothing against them then but the woman's character.
Did you ask her why she hurried away that night?
Her haste attracted the attention of the police constable."
"She was later than usual and wanted to get home."
"Did you point out to her that you and Mr. Phelps, who started at least twenty minutes
after her, got home before her?" "She explains that by the difference
between a 'bus and a hansom."
"Did she make it clear why, on reaching her house, she ran into the back kitchen?"
"Because she had the money there with which to pay off the brokers."
"She has at least an answer for everything.
Did you ask her whether in leaving she met any one or saw any one loitering about
Charles Street?" "She saw no one but the constable."
"Well, you seem to have cross-examined her pretty thoroughly.
What else have you done?" "The clerk Gorot has been shadowed all
these nine weeks, but without result.
We can show nothing against him." "Anything else?"
"Well, we have nothing else to go upon--no evidence of any kind."
"Have you formed a theory about how that bell rang?"
"Well, I must confess that it beats me. It was a cool hand, whoever it was, to go
and give the alarm like that."
"Yes, it was queer thing to do. Many thanks to you for what you have told
me. If I can put the man into your hands you
shall hear from me.
Come along, Watson." "Where are we going to now?"
I asked, as we left the office.
"We are now going to interview Lord Holdhurst, the cabinet minister and future
premier of England."
We were fortunate in finding that Lord Holdhurst was still in his chambers in
Downing Street, and on Holmes sending in his card we were instantly shown up.
The statesman received us with that old- fashioned courtesy for which he is
remarkable, and seated us on the two luxuriant lounges on either side of the
fireplace.
Standing on the rug between us, with his slight, tall figure, his sharp features,
thoughtful face, and curling hair prematurely tinged with gray, he seemed to
represent that not too common type, a nobleman who is in truth noble.
"Your name is very familiar to me, Mr. Holmes," said he, smiling.
"And, of course, I cannot pretend to be ignorant of the object of your visit.
There has only been one occurrence in these offices which could call for your
attention.
In whose interest are you acting, may I ask?"
"In that of Mr. Percy Phelps," answered Holmes.
"Ah, my unfortunate nephew!
You can understand that our kinship makes it the more impossible for me to screen him
in any way. I fear that the incident must have a very
prejudicial effect upon his career."
"But if the document is found?" "Ah, that, of course, would be different."
"I had one or two questions which I wished to ask you, Lord Holdhurst."
"I shall be happy to give you any information in my power."
"Was it in this room that you gave your instructions as to the copying of the
document?"
"It was." "Then you could hardly have been
overheard?" "It is out of the question."
"Did you ever mention to any one that it was your intention to give any one the
treaty to be copied?" "Never."
"You are certain of that?"
"Absolutely." "Well, since you never said so, and Mr.
Phelps never said so, and nobody else knew anything of the matter, then the thief's
presence in the room was purely accidental.
He saw his chance and he took it." The statesman smiled.
"You take me out of my province there," said he.
Holmes considered for a moment.
"There is another very important point which I wish to discuss with you," said he.
"You feared, as I understand, that very grave results might follow from the details
of this treaty becoming known."
A shadow passed over the expressive face of the statesman.
"Very grave results indeed." "Any have they occurred?"
"Not yet."
"If the treaty had reached, let us say, the French or Russian Foreign Office, you would
expect to hear of it?" "I should," said Lord Holdhurst, with a wry
face.
"Since nearly ten weeks have elapsed, then, and nothing has been heard, it is not
unfair to suppose that for some reason the treaty has not reached them."
Lord Holdhurst shrugged his shoulders.
"We can hardly suppose, Mr. Holmes, that the thief took the treaty in order to frame
it and hang it up." "Perhaps he is waiting for a better price."
"If he waits a little longer he will get no price at all.
The treaty will cease to be secret in a few months."
"That is most important," said Holmes.
"Of course, it is a possible supposition that the thief has had a sudden illness--"
"An attack of brain-fever, for example?" asked the statesman, flashing a swift
glance at him.
"I did not say so," said Holmes, imperturbably.
"And now, Lord Holdhurst, we have already taken up too much of your valuable time,
and we shall wish you good-day."
"Every success to your investigation, be the criminal who it may," answered the
nobleman, as he bowed us out the door. "He's a fine fellow," said Holmes, as we
came out into Whitehall.
"But he has a struggle to keep up his position.
He is far from rich and has many calls. You noticed, of course, that his boots had
been resoled.
Now, Watson, I won't detain you from your legitimate work any longer.
I shall do nothing more to-day, unless I have an answer to my cab advertisement.
But I should be extremely obliged to you if you would come down with me to Woking to-
morrow, by the same train which we took yesterday."
I met him accordingly next morning and we traveled down to Woking together.
He had had no answer to his advertisement, he said, and no fresh light had been thrown
upon the case.
He had, when he so willed it, the utter immobility of countenance of a red Indian,
and I could not gather from his appearance whether he was satisfied or not with the
position of the case.
His conversation, I remember, was about the Bertillon system of measurements, and he
expressed his enthusiastic admiration of the French savant.
We found our client still under the charge of his devoted nurse, but looking
considerably better than before. He rose from the sofa and greeted us
without difficulty when we entered.
"Any news?" he asked, eagerly. "My report, as I expected, is a negative
one," said Holmes.
"I have seen Forbes, and I have seen your uncle, and I have set one or two trains of
inquiry upon foot which may lead to something."
"You have not lost heart, then?"
"By no means." "God bless you for saying that!" cried Miss
Harrison. "If we keep our courage and our patience
the truth must come out."
"We have more to tell you than you have for us," said Phelps, reseating himself upon
the couch. "I hoped you might have something."
"Yes, we have had an adventure during the night, and one which might have proved to
be a serious one."
His expression grew very grave as he spoke, and a look of something akin to fear sprang
up in his eyes.
"Do you know," said he, "that I begin to believe that I am the unconscious centre of
some monstrous conspiracy, and that my life is aimed at as well as my honor?"
"Ah!" cried Holmes.
"It sounds incredible, for I have not, as far as I know, an enemy in the world.
Yet from last night's experience I can come to no other conclusion."
"Pray let me hear it."
"You must know that last night was the very first night that I have ever slept without
a nurse in the room. I was so much better that I thought I could
dispense with one.
I had a night-light burning, however. Well, about two in the morning I had sunk
into a light sleep when I was suddenly aroused by a slight noise.
It was like the sound which a mouse makes when it is gnawing a plank, and I lay
listening to it for some time under the impression that it must come from that
cause.
Then it grew louder, and suddenly there came from the window a sharp metallic
snick. I sat up in amazement.
There could be no doubt what the sounds were now.
The first ones had been caused by some one forcing an instrument through the slit
between the sashes, and the second by the catch being pressed back.
"There was a pause then for about ten minutes, as if the person were waiting to
see whether the noise had awakened me. Then I heard a gentle creaking as the
window was very slowly opened.
I could stand it no longer, for my nerves are not what they used to be.
I sprang out of bed and flung open the shutters.
A man was crouching at the window.
I could see little of him, for he was gone like a flash.
He was wrapped in some sort of cloak which came across the lower part of his face.
One thing only I am sure of, and that is that he had some weapon in his hand.
It looked to me like a long knife. I distinctly saw the gleam of it as he
turned to run."
"This is most interesting," said Holmes. "Pray what did you do then?"
"I should have followed him through the open window if I had been stronger.
As it was, I rang the bell and roused the house.
It took me some little time, for the bell rings in the kitchen and the servants all
sleep upstairs.
I shouted, however, and that brought Joseph down, and he roused the others.
Joseph and the groom found marks on the bed outside the window, but the weather has
been so dry lately that they found it hopeless to follow the trail across the
grass.
There's a place, however, on the wooden fence which skirts the road which shows
signs, they tell me, as if some one had got over, and had snapped the top of the rail
in doing so.
I have said nothing to the local police yet, for I thought I had best have your
opinion first."
This tale of our client's appeared to have an extraordinary effect upon Sherlock
Holmes. He rose from his chair and paced about the
room in uncontrollable excitement.
"Misfortunes never come single," said Phelps, smiling, though it was evident that
his adventure had somewhat shaken him. "You have certainly had your share," said
Holmes.
"Do you think you could walk round the house with me?"
"Oh, yes, I should like a little sunshine. Joseph will come, too."
"And I also," said Miss Harrison.
"I am afraid not," said Holmes, shaking his head.
"I think I must ask you to remain sitting exactly where you are."
The young lady resumed her seat with an air of displeasure.
Her brother, however, had joined us and we set off all four together.
We passed round the lawn to the outside of the young diplomatist's window.
There were, as he had said, marks upon the bed, but they were hopelessly blurred and
vague.
Holmes stopped over them for an instant, and then rose shrugging his shoulders.
"I don't think any one could make much of this," said he.
"Let us go round the house and see why this particular room was chosen by the burglar.
I should have thought those larger windows of the drawing-room and dining-room would
have had more attractions for him."
"They are more visible from the road," suggested Mr. Joseph Harrison.
"Ah, yes, of course. There is a door here which he might have
attempted.
What is it for?" "It is the side entrance for trades-people.
Of course it is locked at night." "Have you ever had an alarm like this
before?"
"Never," said our client. "Do you keep plate in the house, or
anything to attract burglars?" "Nothing of value."
Holmes strolled round the house with his hands in his pockets and a negligent air
which was unusual with him.
"By the way," said he to Joseph Harrison, "you found some place, I understand, where
the fellow scaled the fence. Let us have a look at that!"
The plump young man led us to a spot where the top of one of the wooden rails had been
cracked. A small fragment of the wood was hanging
down.
Holmes pulled it off and examined it critically.
"Do you think that was done last night? It looks rather old, does it not?"
"Well, possibly so."
"There are no marks of any one jumping down upon the other side.
No, I fancy we shall get no help here. Let us go back to the bedroom and talk the
matter over."
Percy Phelps was walking very slowly, leaning upon the arm of his future brother-
in-law.
Holmes walked swiftly across the lawn, and we were at the open window of the bedroom
long before the others came up.
"Miss Harrison," said Holmes, speaking with the utmost intensity of manner, "you must
stay where you are all day. Let nothing prevent you from staying where
you are all day.
It is of the utmost importance." "Certainly, if you wish it, Mr. Holmes,"
said the girl in astonishment. "When you go to bed lock the door of this
room on the outside and keep the key.
Promise to do this." "But Percy?"
"He will come to London with us." "And am I to remain here?"
"It is for his sake.
You can serve him. Quick!
Promise!" She gave a quick nod of assent just as the
other two came up.
"Why do you sit moping there, Annie?" cried her brother.
"Come out into the sunshine!" "No, thank you, Joseph.
I have a slight headache and this room is deliciously cool and soothing."
"What do you propose now, Mr. Holmes?" asked our client.
"Well, in investigating this minor affair we must not lose sight of our main inquiry.
It would be a very great help to me if you would come up to London with us."
"At once?"
"Well, as soon as you conveniently can. Say in an hour."
"I feel quite strong enough, if I can really be of any help."
"The greatest possible."
"Perhaps you would like me to stay there to-night?"
"I was just going to propose it." "Then, if my friend of the night comes to
revisit me, he will find the bird flown.
We are all in your hands, Mr. Holmes, and you must tell us exactly what you would
like done. Perhaps you would prefer that Joseph came
with us so as to look after me?"
"Oh, no; my friend Watson is a medical man, you know, and he'll look after you.
We'll have our lunch here, if you will permit us, and then we shall all three set
off for town together."
It was arranged as he suggested, though Miss Harrison excused herself from leaving
the bedroom, in accordance with Holmes's suggestion.
What the object of my friend's manoeuvres was I could not conceive, unless it were to
keep the lady away from Phelps, who, rejoiced by his returning health and by the
prospect of action, lunched with us in the dining-room.
Holmes had a still more startling surprise for us, however, for, after accompanying us
down to the station and seeing us into our carriage, he calmly announced that he had
no intention of leaving Woking.
"There are one or two small points which I should desire to clear up before I go,"
said he. "Your absence, Mr. Phelps, will in some
ways rather assist me.
Watson, when you reach London you would oblige me by driving at once to Baker
Street with our friend here, and remaining with him until I see you again.
It is fortunate that you are old school- fellows, as you must have much to talk
over.
Mr. Phelps can have the spare bedroom to- night, and I will be with you in time for
breakfast, for there is a train which will take me into Waterloo at eight."
"But how about our investigation in London?" asked Phelps, ruefully.
"We can do that to-morrow. I think that just at present I can be of
more immediate use here."
"You might tell them at Briarbrae that I hope to be back to-morrow night," cried
Phelps, as we began to move from the platform.
"I hardly expect to go back to Briarbrae," answered Holmes, and waved his hand to us
cheerily as we shot out from the station.
Phelps and I talked it over on our journey, but neither of us could devise a
satisfactory reason for this new development.
"I suppose he wants to find out some clue as to the burglary last night, if a burglar
it was. For myself, I don't believe it was an
ordinary thief."
"What is your own idea, then?"
"Upon my word, you may put it down to my weak nerves or not, but I believe there is
some deep political intrigue going on around me, and that for some reason that
passes my understanding my life is aimed at by the conspirators.
It sounds high-flown and absurd, but consider the facts!
Why should a thief try to break in at a bedroom window, where there could be no
hope of any plunder, and why should he come with a long knife in his hand?"
"You are sure it was not a house-breaker's jimmy?"
"Oh, no, it was a knife. I saw the flash of the blade quite
distinctly."
"But why on earth should you be pursued with such animosity?"
"Ah, that is the question." "Well, if Holmes takes the same view, that
would account for his action, would it not?
Presuming that your theory is correct, if he can lay his hands upon the man who
threatened you last night he will have gone a long way towards finding who took the
naval treaty.
It is absurd to suppose that you have two enemies, one of whom robs you, while the
other threatens your life." "But Holmes said that he was not going to
Briarbrae."
"I have known him for some time," said I, "but I never knew him do anything yet
without a very good reason," and with that our conversation drifted off on to other
topics.
But it was a weary day for me. Phelps was still weak after his long
illness, and his misfortune made him querulous and nervous.
In vain I endeavored to interest him in Afghanistan, in India, in social questions,
in anything which might take his mind out of the groove.
He would always come back to his lost treaty, wondering, guessing, speculating,
as to what Holmes was doing, what steps Lord Holdhurst was taking, what news we
should have in the morning.
As the evening wore on his excitement became quite painful.
"You have implicit faith in Holmes?" he asked.
"I have seen him do some remarkable things."
"But he never brought light into anything quite so dark as this?"
"Oh, yes; I have known him solve questions which presented fewer clues than yours."
"But not where such large interests are at stake?"
"I don't know that.
To my certain knowledge he has acted on behalf of three of the reigning houses of
Europe in very vital matters." "But you know him well, Watson.
He is such an inscrutable fellow that I never quite know what to make of him.
Do you think he is hopeful? Do you think he expects to make a success
of it?"
"He has said nothing." "That is a bad sign."
"On the contrary, I have noticed that when he is off the trail he generally says so.
It is when he is on a scent and is not quite absolutely sure yet that it is the
right one that he is most taciturn.
Now, my dear fellow, we can't help matters by making ourselves nervous about them, so
let me implore you to go to bed and so be fresh for whatever may await us to-morrow."
I was able at last to persuade my companion to take my advice, though I knew from his
excited manner that there was not much hope of sleep for him.
Indeed, his mood was infectious, for I lay tossing half the night myself, brooding
over this strange problem, and inventing a hundred theories, each of which was more
impossible than the last.
Why had Holmes remained at Woking? Why had he asked Miss Harrison to remain in
the sick-room all day?
Why had he been so careful not to inform the people at Briarbrae that he intended to
remain near them?
I cudgelled my brains until I fell asleep in the endeavor to find some explanation
which would cover all these facts.
It was seven o'clock when I awoke, and I set off at once for Phelps's room, to find
him haggard and spent after a sleepless night.
His first question was whether Holmes had arrived yet.
"He'll be here when he promised," said I, "and not an instant sooner or later."
And my words were true, for shortly after eight a hansom dashed up to the door and
our friend got out of it.
Standing in the window we saw that his left hand was swathed in a bandage and that his
face was very grim and pale. He entered the house, but it was some
little time before he came upstairs.
"He looks like a beaten man," cried Phelps. I was forced to confess that he was right.
"After all," said I, "the clue of the matter lies probably here in town."
Phelps gave a groan.
"I don't know how it is," said he, "but I had hoped for so much from his return.
But surely his hand was not tied up like that yesterday.
What can be the matter?"
"You are not wounded, Holmes?" I asked, as my friend entered the room.
"Tut, it is only a scratch through my own clumsiness," he answered, nodding his good-
mornings to us.
"This case of yours, Mr. Phelps, is certainly one of the darkest which I have
ever investigated." "I feared that you would find it beyond
you."
"It has been a most remarkable experience." "That bandage tells of adventures," said I.
"Won't you tell us what has happened?" "After breakfast, my dear Watson.
Remember that I have breathed thirty miles of Surrey air this morning.
I suppose that there has been no answer from my cabman advertisement?
Well, well, we cannot expect to score every time."
The table was all laid, and just as I was about to ring Mrs. Hudson entered with the
tea and coffee.
A few minutes later she brought in three covers, and we all drew up to the table,
Holmes ravenous, I curious, and Phelps in the gloomiest state of depression.
"Mrs. Hudson has risen to the occasion," said Holmes, uncovering a dish of curried
chicken.
"Her cuisine is a little limited, but she has as good an idea of breakfast as a
Scotch-woman. What have you here, Watson?"
"Ham and eggs," I answered.
"Good! What are you going to take, Mr. Phelps--
curried fowl or eggs, or will you help yourself?"
"Thank you.
I can eat nothing," said Phelps. "Oh, come!
Try the dish before you." "Thank you, I would really rather not."
"Well, then," said Holmes, with a mischievous twinkle, "I suppose that you
have no objection to helping me?"
Phelps raised the cover, and as he did so he uttered a scream, and sat there staring
with a face as white as the plate upon which he looked.
Across the centre of it was lying a little cylinder of blue-gray paper.
He caught it up, devoured it with his eyes, and then danced madly about the room,
pressing it to his bosom and shrieking out in his delight.
Then he fell back into an arm-chair so limp and exhausted with his own emotions that we
had to pour brandy down his throat to keep him from fainting.
"There! there!" said Holmes, soothing, patting him upon the shoulder.
"It was too bad to spring it on you like this, but Watson here will tell you that I
never can resist a touch of the dramatic."
Phelps seized his hand and kissed it. "God bless you!" he cried.
"You have saved my honor." "Well, my own was at stake, you know," said
Holmes.
"I assure you it is just as hateful to me to fail in a case as it can be to you to
blunder over a commission." Phelps thrust away the precious document
into the innermost pocket of his coat.
"I have not the heart to interrupt your breakfast any further, and yet I am dying
to know how you got it and where it was."
Sherlock Holmes swallowed a cup of coffee, and turned his attention to the ham and
eggs. Then he rose, lit his pipe, and settled
himself down into his chair.
"I'll tell you what I did first, and how I came to do it afterwards," said he.
"After leaving you at the station I went for a charming walk through some admirable
Surrey scenery to a pretty little village called Ripley, where I had my tea at an
inn, and took the precaution of filling my
flask and of putting a paper of sandwiches in my pocket.
There I remained until evening, when I set off for Woking again, and found myself in
the high-road outside Briarbrae just after sunset.
"Well, I waited until the road was clear-- it is never a very frequented one at any
time, I fancy--and then I clambered over the fence into the grounds."
"Surely the gate was open!" ejaculated Phelps.
"Yes, but I have a peculiar taste in these matters.
I chose the place where the three fir-trees stand, and behind their screen I got over
without the least chance of any one in the house being able to see me.
I crouched down among the bushes on the other side, and crawled from one to the
other--witness the disreputable state of my trouser knees--until I had reached the
clump of rhododendrons just opposite to your bedroom window.
There I squatted down and awaited developments.
"The blind was not down in your room, and I could see Miss Harrison sitting there
reading by the table. It was quarter-past ten when she closed her
book, fastened the shutters, and retired.
"I heard her shut the door, and felt quite sure that she had turned the key in the
lock." "The key!" ejaculated Phelps.
"Yes; I had given Miss Harrison instructions to lock the door on the
outside and take the key with her when she went to bed.
She carried out every one of my injunctions to the letter, and certainly without her
cooperation you would not have that paper in you coat-pocket.
She departed then and the lights went out, and I was left squatting in the
rhododendron-bush. "The night was fine, but still it was a
very weary vigil.
Of course it has the sort of excitement about it that the sportsman feels when he
lies beside the water-course and waits for the big game.
It was very long, though--almost as long, Watson, as when you and I waited in that
deadly room when we looked into the little problem of the Speckled Band.
There was a church-clock down at Woking which struck the quarters, and I thought
more than once that it had stopped.
At last however about two in the morning, I suddenly heard the gentle sound of a bolt
being pushed back and the creaking of a key.
A moment later the servants' door was opened, and Mr. Joseph Harrison stepped out
into the moonlight." "Joseph!" ejaculated Phelps.
"He was bare-headed, but he had a black coat thrown over his shoulder so that he
could conceal his face in an instant if there were any alarm.
He walked on tiptoe under the shadow of the wall, and when he reached the window he
worked a long-bladed knife through the sash and pushed back the catch.
Then he flung open the window, and putting his knife through the crack in the
shutters, he thrust the bar up and swung them open.
"From where I lay I had a perfect view of the inside of the room and of every one of
his movements.
He lit the two candles which stood upon the mantelpiece, and then he proceeded to turn
back the corner of the carpet in the neighborhood of the door.
Presently he stopped and picked out a square piece of board, such as is usually
left to enable plumbers to get at the joints of the gas-pipes.
This one covered, as a matter of fact, the T joint which gives off the pipe which
supplies the kitchen underneath.
Out of this hiding-place he drew that little cylinder of paper, pushed down the
board, rearranged the carpet, blew out the candles, and walked straight into my arms
as I stood waiting for him outside the window.
"Well, he has rather more viciousness than I gave him credit for, has Master Joseph.
He flew at me with his knife, and I had to grasp him twice, and got a cut over the
knuckles, before I had the upper hand of him.
He looked murder out of the only eye he could see with when we had finished, but he
listened to reason and gave up the papers.
Having got them I let my man go, but I wired full particulars to Forbes this
morning. If he is quick enough to catch his bird,
well and good.
But if, as I shrewdly suspect, he finds the nest empty before he gets there, why, all
the better for the government.
I fancy that Lord Holdhurst for one, and Mr. Percy Phelps for another, would very
much rather that the affair never got as far as a police-court.
"My God!" gasped our client.
"Do you tell me that during these long ten weeks of agony the stolen papers were
within the very room with me all the time?" "So it was."
"And Joseph!
Joseph a villain and a thief!" "Hum! I am afraid Joseph's character is a
rather deeper and more dangerous one than one might judge from his appearance.
From what I have heard from him this morning, I gather that he has lost heavily
in dabbling with stocks, and that he is ready to do anything on earth to better his
fortunes.
Being an absolutely selfish man, when a chance presented itself he did not allow
either his sister's happiness or your reputation to hold his hand."
Percy Phelps sank back in his chair.
"My head whirls," said he. "Your words have dazed me."
"The principal difficulty in your case," remarked Holmes, in his didactic fashion,
"lay in the fact of there being too much evidence.
What was vital was overlaid and hidden by what was irrelevant.
Of all the facts which were presented to us we had to pick just those which we deemed
to be essential, and then piece them together in their order, so as to
reconstruct this very remarkable chain of events.
I had already begun to suspect Joseph, from the fact that you had intended to travel
home with him that night, and that therefore it was a likely enough thing that
he should call for you, knowing the Foreign Office well, upon his way.
When I heard that some one had been so anxious to get into the bedroom, in which
no one but Joseph could have concealed anything--you told us in your narrative how
you had turned Joseph out when you arrived
with the doctor--my suspicions all changed to certainties, especially as the attempt
was made on the first night upon which the nurse was absent, showing that the intruder
was well acquainted with the ways of the house."
"How blind I have been!"
"The facts of the case, as far as I have worked them out, are these: this Joseph
Harrison entered the office through the Charles Street door, and knowing his way he
walked straight into your room the instant after you left it.
Finding no one there he promptly rang the bell, and at the instant that he did so his
eyes caught the paper upon the table.
A glance showed him that chance had put in his way a State document of immense value,
and in an instant he had thrust it into his pocket and was gone.
A few minutes elapsed, as you remember, before the sleepy commissionnaire drew your
attention to the bell, and those were just enough to give the thief time to make his
escape.
"He made his way to Woking by the first train, and having examined his booty and
assured himself that it really was of immense value, he had concealed it in what
he thought was a very safe place, with the
intention of taking it out again in a day or two, and carrying it to the French
embassy, or wherever he thought that a long price was to be had.
Then came your sudden return.
He, without a moment's warning, was bundled out of his room, and from that time onward
there were always at least two of you there to prevent him from regaining his treasure.
The situation to him must have been a maddening one.
But at last he thought he saw his chance. He tried to steal in, but was baffled by
your wakefulness.
You remember that you did not take your usual draught that night."
"I remember."
"I fancy that he had taken steps to make that draught efficacious, and that he quite
relied upon your being unconscious.
Of course, I understood that he would repeat the attempt whenever it could be
done with safety. Your leaving the room gave him the chance
he wanted.
I kept Miss Harrison in it all day so that he might not anticipate us.
Then, having given him the idea that the coast was clear, I kept guard as I have
described.
I already knew that the papers were probably in the room, but I had no desire
to rip up all the planking and skirting in search of them.
I let him take them, therefore, from the hiding-place, and so saved myself an
infinity of trouble. Is there any other point which I can make
clear?"
"Why did he try the window on the first occasion," I asked, "when he might have
entered by the door?" "In reaching the door he would have to pass
seven bedrooms.
On the other hand, he could get out on to the lawn with ease.
Anything else?" "You do not think," asked Phelps, "that he
had any murderous intention?
The knife was only meant as a tool." "It may be so," answered Holmes, shrugging
his shoulders.
"I can only say for certain that Mr. Joseph Harrison is a gentleman to whose mercy I
should be extremely unwilling to trust."
>
Adventure XI. The Final Problem
It is with a heavy heart that I take up my pen to write these the last words in which
I shall ever record the singular gifts by which my friend Mr. Sherlock Holmes was
distinguished.
In an incoherent and, as I deeply feel, an entirely inadequate fashion, I have
endeavored to give some account of my strange experiences in his company from the
chance which first brought us together at
the period of the "Study in Scarlet," up to the time of his interference in the matter
of the "Naval Treaty"--an interference which had the unquestionable effect of
preventing a serious international complication.
It was my intention to have stopped there, and to have said nothing of that event
which has created a void in my life which the lapse of two years has done little to
fill.
My hand has been forced, however, by the recent letters in which Colonel James
Moriarty defends the memory of his brother, and I have no choice but to lay the facts
before the public exactly as they occurred.
I alone know the absolute truth of the matter, and I am satisfied that the time
has come when no good purpose is to be served by its suppression.
As far as I know, there have been only three accounts in the public press: that in
the Journal de Geneve on May 6th, 1891, the Reuter's despatch in the English papers on
May 7th, and finally the recent letter to which I have alluded.
Of these the first and second were extremely condensed, while the last is, as
I shall now show, an absolute perversion of the facts.
It lies with me to tell for the first time what really took place between Professor
Moriarty and Mr. Sherlock Holmes.
It may be remembered that after my marriage, and my subsequent start in
private practice, the very intimate relations which had existed between Holmes
and myself became to some extent modified.
He still came to me from time to time when he desired a companion in his
investigation, but these occasions grew more and more seldom, until I find that in
the year 1890 there were only three cases of which I retain any record.
During the winter of that year and the early spring of 1891, I saw in the papers
that he had been engaged by the French government upon a matter of supreme
importance, and I received two notes from
Holmes, dated from Narbonne and from Nimes, from which I gathered that his stay in
France was likely to be a long one.
It was with some surprise, therefore, that I saw him walk into my consulting-room upon
the evening of April 24th. It struck me that he was looking even paler
and thinner than usual.
"Yes, I have been using myself up rather too freely," he remarked, in answer to my
look rather than to my words; "I have been a little pressed of late.
Have you any objection to my closing your shutters?"
The only light in the room came from the lamp upon the table at which I had been
reading.
Holmes edged his way round the wall and flinging the shutters together, he bolted
them securely. "You are afraid of something?"
I asked.
"Well, I am." "Of what?"
"Of air-guns." "My dear Holmes, what do you mean?"
"I think that you know me well enough, Watson, to understand that I am by no means
a nervous man.
At the same time, it is stupidity rather than courage to refuse to recognize danger
when it is close upon you. Might I trouble you for a match?"
He drew in the smoke of his cigarette as if the soothing influence was grateful to him.
"I must apologize for calling so late," said he, "and I must further beg you to be
so unconventional as to allow me to leave your house presently by scrambling over
your back garden wall."
"But what does it all mean?" I asked.
He held out his hand, and I saw in the light of the lamp that two of his knuckles
were burst and bleeding.
"It is not an airy nothing, you see," said he, smiling.
"On the contrary, it is solid enough for a man to break his hand over.
Is Mrs. Watson in?"
"She is away upon a visit." "Indeed!
You are alone?" "Quite."
"Then it makes it the easier for me to propose that you should come away with me
for a week to the Continent." "Where?"
"Oh, anywhere.
It's all the same to me." There was something very strange in all
this.
It was not Holmes's nature to take an aimless holiday, and something about his
pale, worn face told me that his nerves were at their highest tension.
He saw the question in my eyes, and, putting his finger-tips together and his
elbows upon his knees, he explained the situation.
"You have probably never heard of Professor Moriarty?" said he.
"Never." "Aye, there's the genius and the wonder of
the thing!" he cried.
"The man pervades London, and no one has heard of him.
That's what puts him on a pinnacle in the records of crime.
I tell you, Watson, in all seriousness, that if I could beat that man, if I could
free society of him, I should feel that my own career had reached its summit, and I
should be prepared to turn to some more placid line in life.
Between ourselves, the recent cases in which I have been of assistance to the
royal family of Scandinavia, and to the French republic, have left me in such a
position that I could continue to live in
the quiet fashion which is most congenial to me, and to concentrate my attention upon
my chemical researches.
But I could not rest, Watson, I could not sit quiet in my chair, if I thought that
such a man as Professor Moriarty were walking the streets of London
unchallenged."
"What has he done, then?" "His career has been an extraordinary one.
He is a man of good birth and excellent education, endowed by nature with a
phenomenal mathematical faculty.
At the age of twenty-one he wrote a treatise upon the Binomial
Theorem, which has had a European vogue.
On the strength of it he won the Mathematical Chair at one of our smaller
universities, and had, to all appearances, a most brilliant career before him.
But the man had hereditary tendencies of the most diabolical kind.
A criminal strain ran in his blood, which, instead of being modified, was increased
and rendered infinitely more dangerous by his extraordinary mental powers.
Dark rumors gathered round him in the university town, and eventually he was
compelled to resign his chair and to come down to London, where he set up as an army
coach.
So much is known to the world, but what I am telling you now is what I have myself
discovered.
"As you are aware, Watson, there is no one who knows the higher criminal world of
London so well as I do.
For years past I have continually been conscious of some power behind the
malefactor, some deep organizing power which forever stands in the way of the law,
and throws its shield over the wrong-doer.
Again and again in cases of the most varying sorts--forgery cases, robberies,
murders--I have felt the presence of this force, and I have deduced its action in
many of those undiscovered crimes in which I have not been personally consulted.
For years I have endeavored to break through the veil which shrouded it, and at
last the time came when I seized my thread and followed it, until it led me, after a
thousand cunning windings, to ex-Professor Moriarty of mathematical celebrity.
"He is the Napoleon of crime, Watson.
He is the organizer of half that is evil and of nearly all that is undetected in
this great city. He is a genius, a philosopher, an abstract
thinker.
He has a brain of the first order. He sits motionless, like a spider in the
center of its web, but that web has a thousand radiations, and he knows well
every quiver of each of them.
He does little himself. He only plans.
But his agents are numerous and splendidly organized.
Is there a crime to be done, a paper to be abstracted, we will say, a house to be
rifled, a man to be removed--the word is passed to the Professor, the matter is
organized and carried out.
The agent may be caught. In that case money is found for his bail or
his defence.
But the central power which uses the agent is never caught--never so much as
suspected.
This was the organization which I deduced, Watson, and which I devoted my whole energy
to exposing and breaking up.
"But the Professor was fenced round with safeguards so cunningly devised that, do
what I would, it seemed impossible to get evidence which would convict in a court of
law.
You know my powers, my dear Watson, and yet at the end of three months I was forced to
confess that I had at last met an antagonist who was my intellectual equal.
My horror at his crimes was lost in my admiration at his skill.
But at last he made a trip--only a little, little trip--but it was more than he could
afford when I was so close upon him.
I had my chance, and, starting from that point, I have woven my net round him until
now it is all ready to close.
In three days--that is to say, on Monday next--matters will be ripe, and the
Professor, with all the principal members of his gang, will be in the hands of the
police.
Then will come the greatest criminal trial of the century, the clearing up of over
forty mysteries, and the rope for all of them; but if we move at all prematurely,
you understand, they may slip out of our hands even at the last moment.
"Now, if I could have done this without the knowledge of Professor Moriarty, all would
have been well.
But he was too wily for that. He saw every step which I took to draw my
toils round him. Again and again he strove to break away,
but I as often headed him off.
I tell you, my friend, that if a detailed account of that silent contest could be
written, it would take its place as the most brilliant bit of thrust-and-parry work
in the history of detection.
Never have I risen to such a height, and never have I been so hard pressed by an
opponent. He cut deep, and yet I just undercut him.
This morning the last steps were taken, and three days only were wanted to complete the
business.
I was sitting in my room thinking the matter over, when the door opened and
Professor Moriarty stood before me.
"My nerves are fairly proof, Watson, but I must confess to a start when I saw the very
man who had been so much in my thoughts standing there on my threshhold.
His appearance was quite familiar to me.
He is extremely tall and thin, his forehead domes out in a white curve, and his two
eyes are deeply sunken in his head.
He is clean-shaven, pale, and ascetic- looking, retaining something of the
professor in his features.
His shoulders are rounded from much study, and his face protrudes forward, and is
forever slowly oscillating from side to side in a curiously reptilian fashion.
He peered at me with great curiosity in his puckered eyes.
"'You have less frontal development than I should have expected,' said he, at last.
'It is a dangerous habit to finger loaded firearms in the pocket of one's dressing-
gown.'
"The fact is that upon his entrance I had instantly recognized the extreme personal
danger in which I lay. The only conceivable escape for him lay in
silencing my tongue.
In an instant I had slipped the revolver from the drawer into my pocket, and was
covering him through the cloth. At his remark I drew the weapon out and
laid it cocked upon the table.
He still smiled and blinked, but there was something about his eyes which made me feel
very glad that I had it there. "'You evidently don't know me,' said he.
"'On the contrary,' I answered, 'I think it is fairly evident that I do.
Pray take a chair. I can spare you five minutes if you have
anything to say.'
"'All that I have to say has already crossed your mind,' said he.
"'Then possibly my answer has crossed yours,' I replied.
"'You stand fast?'
"'Absolutely.' "He clapped his hand into his pocket, and I
raised the pistol from the table. But he merely drew out a memorandum-book in
which he had scribbled some dates.
"'You crossed my path on the 4th of January,' said he.
'On the 23d you incommoded me; by the middle of February I was seriously
inconvenienced by you; at the end of March I was absolutely hampered in my plans; and
now, at the close of April, I find myself
placed in such a position through your continual persecution that I am in positive
danger of losing my liberty. The situation is becoming an impossible
one.'
"'Have you any suggestion to make?' I asked.
"'You must drop it, Mr. Holmes,' said he, swaying his face about.
'You really must, you know.'
"'After Monday,' said I. "'Tut, tut,' said he.
'I am quite sure that a man of your intelligence will see that there can be but
one outcome to this affair.
It is necessary that you should withdraw. You have worked things in such a fashion
that we have only one resource left.
It has been an intellectual treat to me to see the way in which you have grappled with
this affair, and I say, unaffectedly, that it would be a grief to me to be forced to
take any extreme measure.
You smile, sir, but I assure you that it really would.'
"'Danger is part of my trade,' I remarked. "'That is not danger,' said he.
'It is inevitable destruction.
You stand in the way not merely of an individual, but of a mighty organization,
the full extent of which you, with all your cleverness, have been unable to realize.
You must stand clear, Mr. Holmes, or be trodden under foot.'
"'I am afraid,' said I, rising, 'that in the pleasure of this conversation I am
neglecting business of importance which awaits me elsewhere.'
"He rose also and looked at me in silence, shaking his head sadly.
"'Well, well,' said he, at last. 'It seems a pity, but I have done what I
could.
I know every move of your game. You can do nothing before Monday.
It has been a duel between you and me, Mr. Holmes.
You hope to place me in the dock.
I tell you that I will never stand in the dock.
You hope to beat me. I tell you that you will never beat me.
If you are clever enough to bring destruction upon me, rest assured that I
shall do as much to you.' "'You have paid me several compliments, Mr.
Moriarty,' said I.
'Let me pay you one in return when I say that if I were assured of the former
eventuality I would, in the interests of the public, cheerfully accept the latter.'
"'I can promise you the one, but not the other,' he snarled, and so turned his
rounded back upon me, and went peering and blinking out of the room.
"That was my singular interview with Professor Moriarty.
I confess that it left an unpleasant effect upon my mind.
His soft, precise fashion of speech leaves a conviction of sincerity which a mere
bully could not produce.
Of course, you will say: 'Why not take police precautions against him?' the reason
is that I am well convinced that it is from his agents the blow will fall.
I have the best proofs that it would be so."
"You have already been assaulted?"
"My dear Watson, Professor Moriarty is not a man who lets the grass grow under his
feet. I went out about mid-day to transact some
business in Oxford Street.
As I passed the corner which leads from Bentinck Street on to the Welbeck Street
crossing a two-horse van furiously driven whizzed round and was on me like a flash.
I sprang for the foot-path and saved myself by the fraction of a second.
The van dashed round by Marylebone Lane and was gone in an instant.
I kept to the pavement after that, Watson, but as I walked down Vere Street a brick
came down from the roof of one of the houses, and was shattered to fragments at
my feet.
I called the police and had the place examined.
There were slates and bricks piled up on the roof preparatory to some repairs, and
they would have me believe that the wind had toppled over one of these.
Of course I knew better, but I could prove nothing.
I took a cab after that and reached my brother's rooms in Pall Mall, where I spent
the day.
Now I have come round to you, and on my way I was attacked by a rough with a bludgeon.
I knocked him down, and the police have him in custody; but I can tell you with the
most absolute confidence that no possible connection will ever be traced between the
gentleman upon whose front teeth I have
barked my knuckles and the retiring mathematical coach, who is, I dare say,
working out problems upon a black-board ten miles away.
You will not wonder, Watson, that my first act on entering your rooms was to close
your shutters, and that I have been compelled to ask your permission to leave
the house by some less conspicuous exit than the front door."
I had often admired my friend's courage, but never more than now, as he sat quietly
checking off a series of incidents which must have combined to make up a day of
horror.
"You will spend the night here?" I said.
"No, my friend, you might find me a dangerous guest.
I have my plans laid, and all will be well.
Matters have gone so far now that they can move without my help as far as the arrest
goes, though my presence is necessary for a conviction.
It is obvious, therefore, that I cannot do better than get away for the few days which
remain before the police are at liberty to act.
It would be a great pleasure to me, therefore, if you could come on to the
Continent with me." "The practice is quiet," said I, "and I
have an accommodating neighbor.
I should be glad to come." "And to start to-morrow morning?"
"If necessary." "Oh yes, it is most necessary.
Then these are your instructions, and I beg, my dear Watson, that you will obey
them to the letter, for you are now playing a double-handed game with me against the
cleverest rogue and the most powerful syndicate of criminals in Europe.
Now listen!
You will dispatch whatever luggage you intend to take by a trusty messenger
unaddressed to Victoria to-night.
In the morning you will send for a hansom, desiring your man to take neither the first
nor the second which may present itself.
Into this hansom you will jump, and you will drive to the Strand end of the Lowther
Arcade, handing the address to the cabman upon a slip of paper, with a request that
he will not throw it away.
Have your fare ready, and the instant that your cab stops, dash through the Arcade,
timing yourself to reach the other side at a quarter-past nine.
You will find a small brougham waiting close to the curb, driven by a fellow with
a heavy black cloak tipped at the collar with red.
Into this you will step, and you will reach Victoria in time for the Continental
express." "Where shall I meet you?"
"At the station.
The second first-class carriage from the front will be reserved for us."
"The carriage is our rendezvous, then?" "Yes."
It was in vain that I asked Holmes to remain for the evening.
It was evident to me that he thought he might bring trouble to the roof he was
under, and that that was the motive which impelled him to go.
With a few hurried words as to our plans for the morrow he rose and came out with me
into the garden, clambering over the wall which leads into Mortimer Street, and
immediately whistling for a hansom, in which I heard him drive away.
In the morning I obeyed Holmes's injunctions to the letter.
A hansom was procured with such precaution as would prevent its being one which was
placed ready for us, and I drove immediately after breakfast to the Lowther
Arcade, through which I hurried at the top of my speed.
A brougham was waiting with a very massive driver wrapped in a dark cloak, who, the
instant that I had stepped in, whipped up the horse and rattled off to Victoria
Station.
On my alighting there he turned the carriage, and dashed away again without so
much as a look in my direction. So far all had gone admirably.
My luggage was waiting for me, and I had no difficulty in finding the carriage which
Holmes had indicated, the less so as it was the only one in the train which was marked
"Engaged."
My only source of anxiety now was the non- appearance of Holmes.
The station clock marked only seven minutes from the time when we were due to start.
In vain I searched among the groups of travellers and leave-takers for the lithe
figure of my friend. There was no sign of him.
I spent a few minutes in assisting a venerable Italian priest, who was
endeavoring to make a porter understand, in his broken English, that his luggage was to
be booked through to Paris.
Then, having taken another look round, I returned to my carriage, where I found that
the porter, in spite of the ticket, had given me my decrepit Italian friend as a
traveling companion.
It was useless for me to explain to him that his presence was an intrusion, for my
Italian was even more limited than his English, so I shrugged my shoulders
resignedly, and continued to look out anxiously for my friend.
A chill of fear had come over me, as I thought that his absence might mean that
some blow had fallen during the night.
Already the doors had all been shut and the whistle blown, when--
"My dear Watson," said a voice, "you have not even condescended to say good-morning."
I turned in uncontrollable astonishment.
The aged ecclesiastic had turned his face towards me.
For an instant the wrinkles were smoothed away, the nose drew away from the chin, the
lower lip ceased to protrude and the mouth to mumble, the dull eyes regained their
fire, the drooping figure expanded.
The next the whole frame collapsed again, and Holmes had gone as quickly as he had
come. "Good heavens!"
I cried; "how you startled me!"
"Every precaution is still necessary," he whispered.
"I have reason to think that they are hot upon our trail.
Ah, there is Moriarty himself."
The train had already begun to move as Holmes spoke.
Glancing back, I saw a tall man pushing his way furiously through the crowd, and waving
his hand as if he desired to have the train stopped.
It was too late, however, for we were rapidly gathering momentum, and an instant
later had shot clear of the station.
"With all our precautions, you see that we have cut it rather fine," said Holmes,
laughing.
He rose, and throwing off the black cassock and hat which had formed his disguise, he
packed them away in a hand-bag. "Have you seen the morning paper, Watson?"
"No."
"You haven't' seen about Baker Street, then?"
"Baker Street?" "They set fire to our rooms last night.
No great harm was done."
"Good heavens, Holmes! this is intolerable."
"They must have lost my track completely after their bludgeon-man was arrested.
Otherwise they could not have imagined that I had returned to my rooms.
They have evidently taken the precaution of watching you, however, and that is what has
brought Moriarty to Victoria.
You could not have made any slip in coming?"
"I did exactly what you advised." "Did you find your brougham?"
"Yes, it was waiting."
"Did you recognize your coachman?" "No."
"It was my brother Mycroft.
It is an advantage to get about in such a case without taking a mercenary into your
confidence. But we must plan what we are to do about
Moriarty now."
"As this is an express, and as the boat runs in connection with it, I should think
we have shaken him off very effectively."
"My dear Watson, you evidently did not realize my meaning when I said that this
man may be taken as being quite on the same intellectual plane as myself.
You do not imagine that if I were the pursuer I should allow myself to be baffled
by so slight an obstacle. Why, then, should you think so meanly of
him?"
"What will he do?" "What I should do?"
"What would you do, then?" "Engage a special."
"But it must be late."
"By no means. This train stops at Canterbury; and there
is always at least a quarter of an hour's delay at the boat.
He will catch us there."
"One would think that we were the criminals.
Let us have him arrested on his arrival." "It would be to ruin the work of three
months.
We should get the big fish, but the smaller would dart right and left out of the net.
On Monday we should have them all. No, an arrest is inadmissible."
"What then?"
"We shall get out at Canterbury." "And then?"
"Well, then we must make a cross-country journey to Newhaven, and so over to Dieppe.
Moriarty will again do what I should do.
He will get on to Paris, mark down our luggage, and wait for two days at the
depot.
In the meantime we shall treat ourselves to a couple of carpet-bags, encourage the
manufactures of the countries through which we travel, and make our way at our leisure
into Switzerland, via Luxembourg and Basle."
At Canterbury, therefore, we alighted, only to find that we should have to wait an hour
before we could get a train to Newhaven.
I was still looking rather ruefully after the rapidly disappearing luggage-van which
contained my wardrobe, when Holmes pulled my sleeve and pointed up the line.
"Already, you see," said he.
Far away, from among the Kentish woods there rose a thin spray of smoke.
A minute later a carriage and engine could be seen flying along the open curve which
leads to the station.
We had hardly time to take our place behind a pile of luggage when it passed with a
rattle and a roar, beating a blast of hot air into our faces.
"There he goes," said Holmes, as we watched the carriage swing and rock over the
points. "There are limits, you see, to our friend's
intelligence.
It would have been a coup-de-maitre had he deduced what I would deduce and acted
accordingly." "And what would he have done had he
overtaken us?"
"There cannot be the least doubt that he would have made a murderous attack upon me.
It is, however, a game at which two may play.
The question now is whether we should take a premature lunch here, or run our chance
of starving before we reach the buffet at Newhaven."
We made our way to Brussels that night and spent two days there, moving on upon the
third day as far as Strasburg.
On the Monday morning Holmes had telegraphed to the London police, and in
the evening we found a reply waiting for us at our hotel.
Holmes tore it open, and then with a bitter curse hurled it into the grate.
"I might have known it!" he groaned. "He has escaped!"
"Moriarty?"
"They have secured the whole gang with the exception of him.
He has given them the slip. Of course, when I had left the country
there was no one to cope with him.
But I did think that I had put the game in their hands.
I think that you had better return to England, Watson."
"Why?"
"Because you will find me a dangerous companion now.
This man's occupation is gone. He is lost if he returns to London.
If I read his character right he will devote his whole energies to revenging
himself upon me. He said as much in our short interview, and
I fancy that he meant it.
I should certainly recommend you to return to your practice."
It was hardly an appeal to be successful with one who was an old campaigner as well
as an old friend.
We sat in the Strasburg salle-à-manger arguing the question for half an hour, but
the same night we had resumed our journey and were well on our way to Geneva.
For a charming week we wandered up the Valley of the Rhone, and then, branching
off at Leuk, we made our way over the Gemmi Pass, still deep in snow, and so, by way of
Interlaken, to Meiringen.
It was a lovely trip, the dainty green of the spring below, the virgin white of the
winter above; but it was clear to me that never for one instant did Holmes forget the
shadow which lay across him.
In the homely Alpine villages or in the lonely mountain passes, I could tell by his
quick glancing eyes and his sharp scrutiny of every face that passed us, that he was
well convinced that, walk where we would,
we could not walk ourselves clear of the danger which was dogging our footsteps.
Once, I remember, as we passed over the Gemmi, and walked along the border of the
melancholy Daubensee, a large rock which had been dislodged from the ridge upon our
right clattered down and roared into the lake behind us.
In an instant Holmes had raced up on to the ridge, and, standing upon a lofty pinnacle,
craned his neck in every direction.
It was in vain that our guide assured him that a fall of stones was a common chance
in the spring-time at that spot.
He said nothing, but he smiled at me with the air of a man who sees the fulfillment
of that which he had expected. And yet for all his watchfulness he was
never depressed.
On the contrary, I can never recollect having seen him in such exuberant spirits.
Again and again he recurred to the fact that if he could be assured that society
was freed from Professor Moriarty he would cheerfully bring his own career to a
conclusion.
"I think that I may go so far as to say, Watson, that I have not lived wholly in
vain," he remarked. "If my record were closed to-night I could
still survey it with equanimity.
The air of London is the sweeter for my presence.
In over a thousand cases I am not aware that I have ever used my powers upon the
wrong side.
Of late I have been tempted to look into the problems furnished by nature rather
than those more superficial ones for which our artificial state of society is
responsible.
Your memoirs will draw to an end, Watson, upon the day that I crown my career by the
capture or extinction of the most dangerous and capable criminal in Europe."
I shall be brief, and yet exact, in the little which remains for me to tell.
It is not a subject on which I would willingly dwell, and yet I am conscious
that a duty devolves upon me to omit no detail.
It was on the 3d of May that we reached the little village of Meiringen, where we put
up at the Englischer Hof, then kept by Peter Steiler the elder.
Our landlord was an intelligent man, and spoke excellent English, having served for
three years as waiter at the Grosvenor Hotel in London.
At his advice, on the afternoon of the 4th we set off together, with the intention of
crossing the hills and spending the night at the hamlet of Rosenlaui.
We had strict injunctions, however, on no account to pass the falls of Reichenbach,
which are about half-way up the hill, without making a small detour to see them.
It is indeed, a fearful place.
The torrent, swollen by the melting snow, plunges into a tremendous abyss, from which
the spray rolls up like the smoke from a burning house.
The shaft into which the river hurls itself is an immense chasm, lined by glistening
coal-black rock, and narrowing into a creaming, boiling pit of incalculable
depth, which brims over and shoots the stream onward over its jagged lip.
The long sweep of green water roaring forever down, and the thick flickering
curtain of spray hissing forever upward, turn a man giddy with their constant whirl
and clamor.
We stood near the edge peering down at the gleam of the breaking water far below us
against the black rocks, and listening to the half-human shout which came booming up
with the spray out of the abyss.
The path has been cut half-way round the fall to afford a complete view, but it ends
abruptly, and the traveler has to return as he came.
We had turned to do so, when we saw a Swiss lad come running along it with a letter in
his hand.
It bore the mark of the hotel which we had just left, and was addressed to me by the
landlord.
It appeared that within a very few minutes of our leaving, an English lady had arrived
who was in the last stage of consumption.
She had wintered at Davos Platz, and was journeying now to join her friends at
Lucerne, when a sudden hemorrhage had overtaken her.
It was thought that she could hardly live a few hours, but it would be a great
consolation to her to see an English doctor, and, if I would only return, etc.
The good Steiler assured me in a postscript that he would himself look upon my
compliance as a very great favor, since the lady absolutely refused to see a Swiss
physician, and he could not but feel that he was incurring a great responsibility.
The appeal was one which could not be ignored.
It was impossible to refuse the request of a fellow-countrywoman dying in a strange
land. Yet I had my scruples about leaving Holmes.
It was finally agreed, however, that he should retain the young Swiss messenger
with him as guide and companion while I returned to Meiringen.
My friend would stay some little time at the fall, he said, and would then walk
slowly over the hill to Rosenlaui, where I was to rejoin him in the evening.
As I turned away I saw Holmes, with his back against a rock and his arms folded,
gazing down at the rush of the waters. It was the last that I was ever destined to
see of him in this world.
When I was near the bottom of the descent I looked back.
It was impossible, from that position, to see the fall, but I could see the curving
path which winds over the shoulder of the hill and leads to it.
Along this a man was, I remember, walking very rapidly.
I could see his black figure clearly outlined against the green behind him.
I noted him, and the energy with which he walked but he passed from my mind again as
I hurried on upon my errand. It may have been a little over an hour
before I reached Meiringen.
Old Steiler was standing at the porch of his hotel.
"Well," said I, as I came hurrying up, "I trust that she is no worse?"
A look of surprise passed over his face, and at the first quiver of his eyebrows my
heart turned to lead in my breast. "You did not write this?"
I said, pulling the letter from my pocket.
"There is no sick Englishwoman in the hotel?"
"Certainly not!" he cried. "But it has the hotel mark upon it!
Ha, it must have been written by that tall Englishman who came in after you had gone.
He said--" But I waited for none of the landlord's
explanations.
In a tingle of fear I was already running down the village street, and making for the
path which I had so lately descended. It had taken me an hour to come down.
For all my efforts two more had passed before I found myself at the fall of
Reichenbach once more.
There was Holmes's Alpine-stock still leaning against the rock by which I had
left him. But there was no sign of him, and it was in
vain that I shouted.
My only answer was my own voice reverberating in a rolling echo from the
cliffs around me. It was the sight of that Alpine-stock which
turned me cold and sick.
He had not gone to Rosenlaui, then. He had remained on that three-foot path,
with sheer wall on one side and sheer drop on the other, until his enemy had overtaken
him.
The young Swiss had gone too. He had probably been in the pay of
Moriarty, and had left the two men together.
And then what had happened?
Who was to tell us what had happened then? I stood for a minute or two to collect
myself, for I was dazed with the horror of the thing.
Then I began to think of Holmes's own methods and to try to practise them in
reading this tragedy. It was, alas, only too easy to do.
During our conversation we had not gone to the end of the path, and the Alpine-stock
marked the place where we had stood.
The blackish soil is kept forever soft by the incessant drift of spray, and a bird
would leave its tread upon it.
Two lines of footmarks were clearly marked along the farther end of the path, both
leading away from me. There were none returning.
A few yards from the end the soil was all ploughed up into a patch of mud, and the
branches and ferns which fringed the chasm were torn and bedraggled.
I lay upon my face and peered over with the spray spouting up all around me.
It had darkened since I left, and now I could only see here and there the
glistening of moisture upon the black walls, and far away down at the end of the
shaft the gleam of the broken water.
I shouted; but only the same half-human cry of the fall was borne back to my ears.
But it was destined that I should after all have a last word of greeting from my friend
and comrade.
I have said that his Alpine-stock had been left leaning against a rock which jutted on
to the path.
From the top of this bowlder the gleam of something bright caught my eye, and,
raising my hand, I found that it came from the silver cigarette-case which he used to
carry.
As I took it up a small square of paper upon which it had lain fluttered down on to
the ground.
Unfolding it, I found that it consisted of three pages torn from his note-book and
addressed to me.
It was characteristic of the man that the direction was a precise, and the writing as
firm and clear, as though it had been written in his study.
My dear Watson [it said], I write these few lines through the courtesy of Mr. Moriarty,
who awaits my convenience for the final discussion of those questions which lie
between us.
He has been giving me a sketch of the methods by which he avoided the English
police and kept himself informed of our movements.
They certainly confirm the very high opinion which I had formed of his
abilities.
I am pleased to think that I shall be able to free society from any further effects of
his presence, though I fear that it is at a cost which will give pain to my friends,
and especially, my dear Watson, to you.
I have already explained to you, however, that my career had in any case reached its
crisis, and that no possible conclusion to it could be more congenial to me than this.
Indeed, if I may make a full confession to you, I was quite convinced that the letter
from Meiringen was a hoax, and I allowed you to depart on that errand under the
persuasion that some development of this sort would follow.
Tell Inspector Patterson that the papers which he needs to convict the gang are in
pigeonhole M., done up in a blue envelope and inscribed "Moriarty."
I made every disposition of my property before leaving England, and handed it to my
brother Mycroft. Pray give my greetings to Mrs. Watson, and
believe me to be, my dear fellow,
Very sincerely yours, Sherlock Holmes
A few words may suffice to tell the little that remains.
An examination by experts leaves little doubt that a personal contest between the
two men ended, as it could hardly fail to end in such a situation, in their reeling
over, locked in each other's arms.
Any attempt at recovering the bodies was absolutely hopeless, and there, deep down
in that dreadful caldron of swirling water and seething foam, will lie for all time
the most dangerous criminal and the
foremost champion of the law of their generation.
The Swiss youth was never found again, and there can be no doubt that he was one of
the numerous agents whom Moriarty kept in this employ.
As to the gang, it will be within the memory of the public how completely the
evidence which Holmes had accumulated exposed their organization, and how heavily
the hand of the dead man weighed upon them.
Of their terrible chief few details came out during the proceedings, and if I have
now been compelled to make a clear statement of his career it is due to those
injudicious champions who have endeavored
to clear his memory by attacks upon him whom I shall ever regard as the best and
the wisest man whom I have ever known.
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