the adventure of black peter i have never known my friend to be inbetter form, both mental and physical, than in the year '95. his increasing fame had brought with it animmense practice, and i should be guilty of an indiscretion if i were even to hint atthe identity of some of the illustrious clients who crossed our humble threshold inbaker street. holmes, however, like all great artists,lived for his art's sake, and, save in the case of the duke of holdernesse, i haveseldom known him claim any large reward for his inestimable services.
so unworldly was he--or so capricious--thathe frequently refused his help to the powerful and wealthy where the problem madeno appeal to his sympathies, while he would devote weeks of most intense application to the affairs of some humble client whosecase presented those strange and dramatic qualities which appealed to his imaginationand challenged his ingenuity. in this memorable year '95, a curious andincongruous succession of cases had engaged his attention, ranging from his famousinvestigation of the sudden death of cardinal tosca--an inquiry which was carried out by him at the express desire ofhis holiness the pope--down to his arrest
of wilson, the notorious canary-trainer,which removed a plague-spot from the east end of london. close on the heels of these two famouscases came the tragedy of woodman's lee, and the very obscure circumstances whichsurrounded the death of captain peter carey. no record of the doings of mr. sherlockholmes would be complete which did not include some account of this very unusualaffair. during the first week of july, my friendhad been absent so often and so long from our lodgings that i knew he had somethingon hand.
the fact that several rough-looking mencalled during that time and inquired for captain basil made me understand thatholmes was working somewhere under one of the numerous disguises and names with whichhe concealed his own formidable identity. he had at least five small refuges indifferent parts of london, in which he was able to change his personality. he said nothing of his business to me, andit was not my habit to force a confidence. the first positive sign which he gave me ofthe direction which his investigation was taking was an extraordinary one. he had gone out before breakfast, and i hadsat down to mine when he strode into the
room, his hat upon his head and a hugebarbed-headed spear tucked like an umbrella under his arm. "good gracious, holmes!"i cried. "you don't mean to say that you have beenwalking about london with that thing?" "i drove to the butcher's and back." "the butcher's?""and i return with an excellent appetite. there can be no question, my dear watson,of the value of exercise before breakfast. but i am prepared to bet that you will notguess the form that my exercise has taken." "i will not attempt it."he chuckled as he poured out the coffee.
"if you could have looked into allardyce'sback shop, you would have seen a dead pig swung from a hook in the ceiling, and agentleman in his shirt sleeves furiously stabbing at it with this weapon. i was that energetic person, and i havesatisfied myself that by no exertion of my strength can i transfix the pig with asingle blow. perhaps you would care to try?" "not for worlds.but why were you doing this?" "because it seemed to me to have anindirect bearing upon the mystery of woodman's lee.
ah, hopkins, i got your wire last night,and i have been expecting you. come and join us." our visitor was an exceedingly alert man,thirty years of age, dressed in a quiet tweed suit, but retaining the erect bearingof one who was accustomed to official uniform. i recognized him at once as stanleyhopkins, a young police inspector, for whose future holmes had high hopes, whilehe in turn professed the admiration and respect of a pupil for the scientificmethods of the famous amateur. hopkins's brow was clouded, and he sat downwith an air of deep dejection.
"no, thank you, sir. i breakfasted before i came round.i spent the night in town, for i came up yesterday to report.""and what had you to report?" "failure, sir, absolute failure." "you have made no progress?""none." "dear me!i must have a look at the matter." "i wish to heavens that you would, mr.holmes. it's my first big chance, and i am at mywit's end. for goodness' sake, come down and lend me ahand."
"well, well, it just happens that i havealready read all the available evidence, including the report of the inquest, withsome care. by the way, what do you make of thattobacco pouch, found on the scene of the crime?is there no clue there?" hopkins looked surprised. "it was the man's own pouch, sir.his initials were inside it. and it was of sealskin,--and he was an oldsealer." "but he had no pipe." "no, sir, we could find no pipe.indeed, he smoked very little, and yet he
might have kept some tobacco for hisfriends." "no doubt. i only mention it because, if i had beenhandling the case, i should have been inclined to make that the starting-point ofmy investigation. however, my friend, dr. watson, knowsnothing of this matter, and i should be none the worse for hearing the sequence ofevents once more. just give us some short sketches of theessentials." stanley hopkins drew a slip of paper fromhis pocket. "i have a few dates here which will giveyou the career of the dead man, captain
peter carey.he was born in '45--fifty years of age. he was a most daring and successful sealand whale fisher. in 1883 he commanded the steam sealer seaunicorn, of dundee. he had then had several successful voyagesin succession, and in the following year, 1884, he retired. after that he travelled for some years, andfinally he bought a small place called woodman's lee, near forest row, in sussex.there he has lived for six years, and there he died just a week ago to-day. "there were some most singular points aboutthe man.
in ordinary life, he was a strict puritan--a silent, gloomy fellow. his household consisted of his wife, hisdaughter, aged twenty, and two female servants. these last were continually changing, forit was never a very cheery situation, and sometimes it became past all bearing. the man was an intermittent drunkard, andwhen he had the fit on him he was a perfect fiend. he has been known to drive his wife anddaughter out of doors in the middle of the night and flog them through the park untilthe whole village outside the gates was
aroused by their screams. "he was summoned once for a savage assaultupon the old vicar, who had called upon him to remonstrate with him upon his conduct. in short, mr. holmes, you would go farbefore you found a more dangerous man than peter carey, and i have heard that he borethe same character when he commanded his ship. he was known in the trade as black peter,and the name was given him, not only on account of his swarthy features and thecolour of his huge beard, but for the humours which were the terror of all aroundhim.
i need not say that he was loathed andavoided by every one of his neighbours, and that i have not heard one single word ofsorrow about his terrible end. "you must have read in the account of theinquest about the man's cabin, mr. holmes, but perhaps your friend here has not heardof it. he had built himself a wooden outhouse--healways called it the 'cabin'--a few hundred yards from his house, and it was here thathe slept every night. it was a little, single-roomed hut, sixteenfeet by ten. he kept the key in his pocket, made his ownbed, cleaned it himself, and allowed no other foot to cross the threshold.
there are small windows on each side, whichwere covered by curtains and never opened. one of these windows was turned towards thehigh road, and when the light burned in it at night the folk used to point it out toeach other and wonder what black peter was doing in there. that's the window, mr. holmes, which gaveus one of the few bits of positive evidence that came out at the inquest. "you remember that a stonemason, namedslater, walking from forest row about one o'clock in the morning--two days before themurder--stopped as he passed the grounds and looked at the square of light stillshining among the trees.
he swears that the shadow of a man's headturned sideways was clearly visible on the blind, and that this shadow was certainlynot that of peter carey, whom he knew well. it was that of a bearded man, but the beardwas short and bristled forward in a way very different from that of the captain. so he says, but he had been two hours inthe public-house, and it is some distance from the road to the window.besides, this refers to the monday, and the crime was done upon the wednesday. "on the tuesday, peter carey was in one ofhis blackest moods, flushed with drink and as savage as a dangerous wild beast.he roamed about the house, and the women
ran for it when they heard him coming. late in the evening, he went down to hisown hut. about two o'clock the following morning,his daughter, who slept with her window open, heard a most fearful yell from thatdirection, but it was no unusual thing for him to bawl and shout when he was in drink,so no notice was taken. on rising at seven, one of the maidsnoticed that the door of the hut was open, but so great was the terror which the mancaused that it was midday before anyone would venture down to see what had becomeof him. peeping into the open door, they saw asight which sent them flying, with white
faces, into the village. within an hour, i was on the spot and hadtaken over the case. "well, i have fairly steady nerves, as youknow, mr. holmes, but i give you my word, that i got a shake when i put my head intothat little house. it was droning like a harmonium with theflies and bluebottles, and the floor and walls were like a slaughter-house. he had called it a cabin, and a cabin itwas, sure enough, for you would have thought that you were in a ship. there was a bunk at one end, a sea-chest,maps and charts, a picture of the sea
unicorn, a line of logbooks on a shelf, allexactly as one would expect to find it in a captain's room. and there, in the middle of it, was the manhimself--his face twisted like a lost soul in torment, and his great brindled beardstuck upward in his agony. right through his broad breast a steelharpoon had been driven, and it had sunk deep into the wood of the wall behind him.he was pinned like a beetle on a card. of course, he was quite dead, and had beenso from the instant that he had uttered that last yell of agony."i know your methods, sir, and i applied them.
before i permitted anything to be moved, iexamined most carefully the ground outside, and also the floor of the room.there were no footmarks." "meaning that you saw none?" "i assure you, sir, that there were none.""my good hopkins, i have investigated many crimes, but i have never yet seen one whichwas committed by a flying creature. as long as the criminal remains upon twolegs so long must there be some indentation, some abrasion, some triflingdisplacement which can be detected by the scientific searcher. it is incredible that this blood-bespattered room contained no trace which
could have aided us. i understand, however, from the inquestthat there were some objects which you failed to overlook?"the young inspector winced at my companion's ironical comments. "i was a fool not to call you in at thetime mr. holmes. however, that's past praying for now.yes, there were several objects in the room which called for special attention. one was the harpoon with which the deed wascommitted. it had been snatched down from a rack onthe wall.
two others remained there, and there was avacant place for the third. on the stock was engraved 'ss. sea unicorn,dundee.' this seemed to establish that the crime hadbeen done in a moment of fury, and that the murderer had seized the first weapon whichcame in his way. the fact that the crime was committed attwo in the morning, and yet peter carey was fully dressed, suggested that he had anappointment with the murderer, which is borne out by the fact that a bottle of rum and two dirty glasses stood upon thetable." "yes," said holmes; "i think that bothinferences are permissible.
was there any other spirit but rum in theroom?" "yes, there was a tantalus containingbrandy and whisky on the sea-chest. it is of no importance to us, however,since the decanters were full, and it had therefore not been used.""for all that, its presence has some significance," said holmes. "however, let us hear some more about theobjects which do seem to you to bear upon the case.""there was this tobacco-pouch upon the table." "what part of the table?""it lay in the middle.
it was of coarse sealskin--the straight-haired skin, with a leather thong to bind it. inside was 'p.c.' on the flap.there was half an ounce of strong ship's tobacco in it.""excellent! what more?" stanley hopkins drew from his pocket adrab-covered notebook. the outside was rough and worn, the leavesdiscoloured. on the first page were written the initials"j.h.n." and the date "1883." holmes laid it on the table and examined itin his minute way, while hopkins and i
gazed over each shoulder. on the second page were the printed letters"c.p.r.," and then came several sheets of numbers. another heading was "argentine," another"costa rica," and another "san paulo," each with pages of signs and figures after it."what do you make of these?" asked holmes. "they appear to be lists of stock exchangesecurities. i thought that 'j.h.n.' were the initialsof a broker, and that 'c.p.r.' may have been his client." "try canadian pacific railway," saidholmes.
stanley hopkins swore between his teeth,and struck his thigh with his clenched hand. "what a fool i have been!" he cried."of course, it is as you say. then 'j.h.n.' are the only initials we haveto solve. i have already examined the old stockexchange lists, and i can find no one in 1883, either in the house or among theoutside brokers, whose initials correspond with these. yet i feel that the clue is the mostimportant one that i hold. you will admit, mr. holmes, that there isa possibility that these initials are those
of the second person who was present--inother words, of the murderer. i would also urge that the introductioninto the case of a document relating to large masses of valuable securities givesus for the first time some indication of a motive for the crime." sherlock holmes's face showed that he wasthoroughly taken aback by this new development."i must admit both your points," said he. "i confess that this notebook, which didnot appear at the inquest, modifies any views which i may have formed.i had come to a theory of the crime in which i can find no place for this.
have you endeavoured to trace any of thesecurities here mentioned?" "inquiries are now being made at theoffices, but i fear that the complete register of the stockholders of these southamerican concerns is in south america, and that some weeks must elapse before we cantrace the shares." holmes had been examining the cover of thenotebook with his magnifying lens. "surely there is some discolouration here,"said he. "yes, sir, it is a blood-stain.i told you that i picked the book off the floor." "was the blood-stain above or below?""on the side next the boards."
"which proves, of course, that the book wasdropped after the crime was committed." "exactly, mr. holmes. i appreciated that point, and i conjecturedthat it was dropped by the murderer in his hurried flight.it lay near the door." "i suppose that none of these securitieshave been found among the property of the dead man?""no, sir." "have you any reason to suspect robbery?" "no, sir.nothing seemed to have been touched." "dear me, it is certainly a veryinteresting case.
then there was a knife, was there not?" "a sheath-knife, still in its sheath.it lay at the feet of the dead man. mrs. carey has identified it as being herhusband's property." holmes was lost in thought for some time. "well," said he, at last, "i suppose ishall have to come out and have a look at it."stanley hopkins gave a cry of joy. "thank you, sir. that will, indeed, be a weight off mymind." holmes shook his finger at the inspector."it would have been an easier task a week
ago," said he. "but even now my visit may not be entirelyfruitless. watson, if you can spare the time, i shouldbe very glad of your company. if you will call a four-wheeler, hopkins,we shall be ready to start for forest row in a quarter of an hour." alighting at the small wayside station, wedrove for some miles through the remains of widespread woods, which were once part ofthat great forest which for so long held the saxon invaders at bay--the impenetrable "weald," for sixty years the bulwark ofbritain.
vast sections of it have been cleared, forthis is the seat of the first iron-works of the country, and the trees have been felledto smelt the ore. now the richer fields of the north haveabsorbed the trade, and nothing save these ravaged groves and great scars in the earthshow the work of the past. here, in a clearing upon the green slope ofa hill, stood a long, low, stone house, approached by a curving drive runningthrough the fields. nearer the road, and surrounded on threesides by bushes, was a small outhouse, one window and the door facing in ourdirection. it was the scene of the murder.
stanley hopkins led us first to the house,where he introduced us to a haggard, gray- haired woman, the widow of the murderedman, whose gaunt and deep-lined face, with the furtive look of terror in the depths of her red-rimmed eyes, told of the years ofhardship and ill-usage which she had endured. with her was her daughter, a pale, fair-haired girl, whose eyes blazed defiantly at us as she told us that she was glad thather father was dead, and that she blessed the hand which had struck him down. it was a terrible household that blackpeter carey had made for himself, and it
was with a sense of relief that we foundourselves in the sunlight again and making our way along a path which had been worn across the fields by the feet of the deadman. the outhouse was the simplest of dwellings,wooden-walled, shingle-roofed, one window beside the door and one on the fartherside. stanley hopkins drew the key from hispocket and had stooped to the lock, when he paused with a look of attention andsurprise upon his face. "someone has been tampering with it," hesaid. there could be no doubt of the fact.
the woodwork was cut, and the scratchesshowed white through the paint, as if they had been that instant done.holmes had been examining the window. "someone has tried to force this also. whoever it was has failed to make his wayin. he must have been a very poor burglar." "this is a most extraordinary thing," saidthe inspector, "i could swear that these marks were not here yesterday evening.""some curious person from the village, perhaps," i suggested. "very unlikely.few of them would dare to set foot in the
grounds, far less try to force their wayinto the cabin. what do you think of it, mr. holmes?" "i think that fortune is very kind to us.""you mean that the person will come again?" "it is very probable.he came expecting to find the door open. he tried to get in with the blade of a verysmall penknife. he could not manage it.what would he do?" "come again next night with a more usefultool." "so i should say.it will be our fault if we are not there to receive him.
meanwhile, let me see the inside of thecabin." the traces of the tragedy had been removed,but the furniture within the little room still stood as it had been on the night ofthe crime. for two hours, with most intenseconcentration, holmes examined every object in turn, but his face showed that his questwas not a successful one. once only he paused in his patientinvestigation. "have you taken anything off this shelf,hopkins?" "no, i have moved nothing." "something has been taken.there is less dust in this corner of the
shelf than elsewhere.it may have been a book lying on its side. it may have been a box. well, well, i can do nothing more.let us walk in these beautiful woods, watson, and give a few hours to the birdsand the flowers. we shall meet you here later, hopkins, andsee if we can come to closer quarters with the gentleman who has paid this visit inthe night." it was past eleven o'clock when we formedour little ambuscade. hopkins was for leaving the door of the hutopen, but holmes was of the opinion that this would rouse the suspicions of thestranger.
the lock was a perfectly simple one, andonly a strong blade was needed to push it back. holmes also suggested that we should wait,not inside the hut, but outside it, among the bushes which grew round the fartherwindow. in this way we should be able to watch ourman if he struck a light, and see what his object was in this stealthy nocturnalvisit. it was a long and melancholy vigil, and yetbrought with it something of the thrill which the hunter feels when he lies besidethe water-pool, and waits for the coming of the thirsty beast of prey.
what savage creature was it which mightsteal upon us out of the darkness? was it a fierce tiger of crime, which couldonly be taken fighting hard with flashing fang and claw, or would it prove to be someskulking jackal, dangerous only to the weak and unguarded? in absolute silence we crouched amongst thebushes, waiting for whatever might come. at first the steps of a few belatedvillagers, or the sound of voices from the village, lightened our vigil, but one byone these interruptions died away, and an absolute stillness fell upon us, save for the chimes of the distant church, whichtold us of the progress of the night, and
for the rustle and whisper of a fine rainfalling amid the foliage which roofed us in. half-past two had chimed, and it was thedarkest hour which precedes the dawn, when we all started as a low but sharp clickcame from the direction of the gate. someone had entered the drive. again there was a long silence, and i hadbegun to fear that it was a false alarm, when a stealthy step was heard upon theother side of the hut, and a moment later a metallic scraping and clinking. the man was trying to force the lock.this time his skill was greater or his tool
was better, for there was a sudden snap andthe creak of the hinges. then a match was struck, and next instantthe steady light from a candle filled the interior of the hut.through the gauze curtain our eyes were all riveted upon the scene within. the nocturnal visitor was a young man,frail and thin, with a black moustache, which intensified the deadly pallor of hisface. he could not have been much above twentyyears of age. i have never seen any human being whoappeared to be in such a pitiable fright, for his teeth were visibly chattering, andhe was shaking in every limb.
he was dressed like a gentleman, in norfolkjacket and knickerbockers, with a cloth cap upon his head.we watched him staring round with frightened eyes. then he laid the candle-end upon the tableand disappeared from our view into one of the corners. he returned with a large book, one of thelogbooks which formed a line upon the shelves. leaning on the table, he rapidly turnedover the leaves of this volume until he came to the entry which he sought.
then, with an angry gesture of his clenchedhand, he closed the book, replaced it in the corner, and put out the light. he had hardly turned to leave the hut whenhopkin's hand was on the fellow's collar, and i heard his loud gasp of terror as heunderstood that he was taken. the candle was relit, and there was ourwretched captive, shivering and cowering in the grasp of the detective.he sank down upon the sea-chest, and looked helplessly from one of us to the other. "now, my fine fellow," said stanleyhopkins, "who are you, and what do you want here?"the man pulled himself together, and faced
us with an effort at self-composure. "you are detectives, i suppose?" said he."you imagine i am connected with the death of captain peter carey.i assure you that i am innocent." "we'll see about that," said hopkins. "first of all, what is your name?""it is john hopley neligan." i saw holmes and hopkins exchange a quickglance. "what are you doing here?" "can i speak confidentially?""no, certainly not." "why should i tell you?""if you have no answer, it may go badly
with you at the trial." the young man winced."well, i will tell you," he said. "why should i not?and yet i hate to think of this old scandal gaining a new lease of life. did you ever hear of dawson and neligan?"i could see, from hopkins's face, that he never had, but holmes was keenlyinterested. "you mean the west country bankers," saidhe. "they failed for a million, ruined half thecounty families of cornwall, and neligan disappeared."
"exactly.neligan was my father." at last we were getting something positive,and yet it seemed a long gap between an absconding banker and captain peter careypinned against the wall with one of his own harpoons. we all listened intently to the young man'swords. "it was my father who was really concerned.dawson had retired. i was only ten years of age at the time,but i was old enough to feel the shame and horror of it all.it has always been said that my father stole all the securities and fled.
it is not true.it was his belief that if he were given time in which to realize them, all would bewell and every creditor paid in full. he started in his little yacht for norwayjust before the warrant was issued for his arrest.i can remember that last night when he bade farewell to my mother. he left us a list of the securities he wastaking, and he swore that he would come back with his honour cleared, and that nonewho had trusted him would suffer. well, no word was ever heard from himagain. both the yacht and he vanished utterly.
we believed, my mother and i, that he andit, with the securities that he had taken with him, were at the bottom of the sea. we had a faithful friend, however, who is abusiness man, and it was he who discovered some time ago that some of the securitieswhich my father had with him had reappeared on the london market. you can imagine our amazement. i spent months in trying to trace them, andat last, after many doubtings and difficulties, i discovered that theoriginal seller had been captain peter carey, the owner of this hut.
"naturally, i made some inquiries about theman. i found that he had been in command of awhaler which was due to return from the arctic seas at the very time when my fatherwas crossing to norway. the autumn of that year was a stormy one,and there was a long succession of southerly gales. my father's yacht may well have been blownto the north, and there met by captain peter carey's ship.if that were so, what had become of my father? in any case, if i could prove from petercarey's evidence how these securities came
on the market it would be a proof that myfather had not sold them, and that he had no view to personal profit when he tookthem. "i came down to sussex with the intentionof seeing the captain, but it was at this moment that his terrible death occurred. i read at the inquest a description of hiscabin, in which it stated that the old logbooks of his vessel were preserved init. it struck me that if i could see whatoccurred in the month of august, 1883, on board the sea unicorn, i might settle themystery of my father's fate. i tried last night to get at theselogbooks, but was unable to open the door.
to-night i tried again and succeeded, but ifind that the pages which deal with that month have been torn from the book. it was at that moment i found myself aprisoner in your hands." "is that all?" asked hopkins."yes, that is all." his eyes shifted as he said it. "you have nothing else to tell us?"he hesitated. "no, there is nothing.""you have not been here before last night?" "no. "then how do you account for that?" criedhopkins, as he held up the damning
notebook, with the initials of our prisoneron the first leaf and the blood-stain on the cover. the wretched man collapsed.he sank his face in his hands, and trembled all over."where did you get it?" he groaned. "i did not know. i thought i had lost it at the hotel.""that is enough," said hopkins, sternly. "whatever else you have to say, you mustsay in court. you will walk down with me now to thepolice-station. well, mr. holmes, i am very much obligedto you and to your friend for coming down
to help me. as it turns out your presence wasunnecessary, and i would have brought the case to this successful issue without you,but, none the less, i am grateful. rooms have been reserved for you at thebrambletye hotel, so we can all walk down to the village together." "well, watson, what do you think of it?"asked holmes, as we travelled back next morning."i can see that you are not satisfied." "oh, yes, my dear watson, i am perfectlysatisfied. at the same time, stanley hopkins's methodsdo not commend themselves to me.
i am disappointed in stanley hopkins. i had hoped for better things from him.one should always look for a possible alternative, and provide against it.it is the first rule of criminal investigation." "what, then, is the alternative?""the line of investigation which i have myself been pursuing.it may give us nothing. i cannot tell. but at least i shall follow it to the end."several letters were waiting for holmes at baker street.
he snatched one of them up, opened it, andburst out into a triumphant chuckle of laughter."excellent, watson! the alternative develops. have you telegraph forms?just write a couple of messages for me: 'sumner, shipping agent, ratcliff highway.send three men on, to arrive ten to-morrow morning.--basil.' that's my name in those parts.the other is: 'inspector stanley hopkins, 46 lord street, brixton.come breakfast to-morrow at nine-thirty. important.
wire if unable to come.--sherlock holmes.'there, watson, this infernal case has haunted me for ten days.i hereby banish it completely from my presence. to-morrow, i trust that we shall hear thelast of it forever." sharp at the hour named inspector stanleyhopkins appeared, and we sat down together to the excellent breakfast which mrs.hudson had prepared. the young detective was in high spirits athis success. "you really think that your solution mustbe correct?" asked holmes. "i could not imagine a more complete case."
"it did not seem to me conclusive.""you astonish me, mr. holmes. what more could one ask for?""does your explanation cover every point?" "undoubtedly. i find that young neligan arrived at thebrambletye hotel on the very day of the crime.he came on the pretence of playing golf. his room was on the ground-floor, and hecould get out when he liked. that very night he went down to woodman'slee, saw peter carey at the hut, quarrelled with him, and killed him with the harpoon. then, horrified by what he had done, hefled out of the hut, dropping the notebook
which he had brought with him in order toquestion peter carey about these different securities. you may have observed that some of themwere marked with ticks, and the others--the great majority--were not. those which are ticked have been traced onthe london market, but the others, presumably, were still in the possession ofcarey, and young neligan, according to his own account, was anxious to recover them in order to do the right thing by his father'screditors. after his flight he did not dare toapproach the hut again for some time, but
at last he forced himself to do so in orderto obtain the information which he needed. surely that is all simple and obvious?" holmes smiled and shook his head."it seems to me to have only one drawback, hopkins, and that is that it isintrinsically impossible. have you tried to drive a harpoon through abody? no?tut, tut my dear sir, you must really pay attention to these details. my friend watson could tell you that ispent a whole morning in that exercise. it is no easy matter, and requires a strongand practised arm.
but this blow was delivered with suchviolence that the head of the weapon sank deep into the wall.do you imagine that this anaemic youth was capable of so frightful an assault? is he the man who hobnobbed in rum andwater with black peter in the dead of the night?was it his profile that was seen on the blind two nights before? no, no, hopkins, it is another and moreformidable person for whom we must seek." the detective's face had grown longer andlonger during holmes's speech. his hopes and his ambitions were allcrumbling about him.
but he would not abandon his positionwithout a struggle. "you can't deny that neligan was presentthat night, mr. holmes. the book will prove that. i fancy that i have evidence enough tosatisfy a jury, even if you are able to pick a hole in it.besides, mr. holmes, i have laid my hand upon my man. as to this terrible person of yours, whereis he?" "i rather fancy that he is on the stair,"said holmes, serenely. "i think, watson, that you would do well toput that revolver where you can reach it."
he rose and laid a written paper upon aside-table. "now we are ready," said he. there had been some talking in gruff voicesoutside, and now mrs. hudson opened the door to say that there were three meninquiring for captain basil. "show them in one by one," said holmes. "the first who entered was a little ribstonpippin of a man, with ruddy cheeks and fluffy white side-whiskers.holmes had drawn a letter from his pocket. "what name?" he asked. "james lancaster.""i am sorry, lancaster, but the berth is
full.here is half a sovereign for your trouble. just step into this room and wait there fora few minutes." the second man was a long, dried-upcreature, with lank hair and sallow cheeks. his name was hugh pattins. he also received his dismissal, his half-sovereign, and the order to wait. the third applicant was a man of remarkableappearance. a fierce bull-dog face was framed in atangle of hair and beard, and two bold, dark eyes gleamed behind the cover ofthick, tufted, overhung eyebrows. he saluted and stood sailor-fashion,turning his cap round in his hands.
"your name?" asked holmes."patrick cairns." "harpooner?" "yes, sir.twenty-six voyages." "dundee, i suppose?""yes, sir." "and ready to start with an exploringship?" "yes, sir.""what wages?" "eight pounds a month." "could you start at once?""as soon as i get my kit." "have you your papers?""yes, sir."
he took a sheaf of worn and greasy formsfrom his pocket. holmes glanced over them and returned them."you are just the man i want," said he. "here's the agreement on the side-table. if you sign it the whole matter will besettled." the seaman lurched across the room and tookup the pen. "shall i sign here?" he asked, stoopingover the table. holmes leaned over his shoulder and passedboth hands over his neck. "this will do," said he. i heard a click of steel and a bellow likean enraged bull.
the next instant holmes and the seaman wererolling on the ground together. he was a man of such gigantic strengththat, even with the handcuffs which holmes had so deftly fastened upon his wrists, hewould have very quickly overpowered my friend had hopkins and i not rushed to hisrescue. only when i pressed the cold muzzle of therevolver to his temple did he at last understand that resistance was vain. we lashed his ankles with cord, and rosebreathless from the struggle. "i must really apologize, hopkins," saidsherlock holmes. "i fear that the scrambled eggs are cold.
however, you will enjoy the rest of yourbreakfast all the better, will you not, for the thought that you have brought your caseto a triumphant conclusion." stanley hopkins was speechless withamazement. "i don't know what to say, mr. holmes," heblurted out at last, with a very red face. "it seems to me that i have been making afool of myself from the beginning. i understand now, what i should never haveforgotten, that i am the pupil and you are the master. even now i see what you have done, but idon't know how you did it or what it signifies.""well, well," said holmes, good-humouredly.
"we all learn by experience, and yourlesson this time is that you should never lose sight of the alternative. you were so absorbed in young neligan thatyou could not spare a thought to patrick cairns, the true murderer of peter carey."the hoarse voice of the seaman broke in on our conversation. "see here, mister," said he, "i make nocomplaint of being man-handled in this fashion, but i would have you call thingsby their right names. you say i murdered peter carey, i say ikilled peter carey, and there's all the difference.maybe you don't believe what i say.
maybe you think i am just slinging you ayarn." "not at all," said holmes."let us hear what you have to say." "it's soon told, and, by the lord, everyword of it is truth. i knew black peter, and when he pulled outhis knife i whipped a harpoon through him sharp, for i knew that it was him or me. that's how he died.you can call it murder. anyhow, i'd as soon die with a rope roundmy neck as with black peter's knife in my heart." "how came you there?" asked holmes."i'll tell it you from the beginning.
just sit me up a little, so as i can speakeasy. it was in '83 that it happened--august ofthat year. peter carey was master of the sea unicorn,and i was spare harpooner. we were coming out of the ice-pack on ourway home, with head winds and a week's southerly gale, when we picked up a littlecraft that had been blown north. there was one man on her--a landsman. the crew had thought she would founder andhad made for the norwegian coast in the dinghy.i guess they were all drowned. well, we took him on board, this man, andhe and the skipper had some long talks in
the cabin.all the baggage we took off with him was one tin box. so far as i know, the man's name was nevermentioned, and on the second night he disappeared as if he had never been. it was given out that he had either thrownhimself overboard or fallen overboard in the heavy weather that we were having. only one man knew what had happened to him,and that was me, for, with my own eyes, i saw the skipper tip up his heels and puthim over the rail in the middle watch of a dark night, two days before we sighted theshetland lights.
well, i kept my knowledge to myself, andwaited to see what would come of it. when we got back to scotland it was easilyhushed up, and nobody asked any questions. a stranger died by accident and it wasnobody's business to inquire. shortly after peter carey gave up the sea,and it was long years before i could find where he was. i guessed that he had done the deed for thesake of what was in that tin box, and that he could afford now to pay me well forkeeping my mouth shut. i found out where he was through a sailorman that had met him in london, and down i went to squeeze him.
the first night he was reasonable enough,and was ready to give me what would make me free of the sea for life.we were to fix it all two nights later. when i came, i found him three parts drunkand in a vile temper. we sat down and we drank and we yarnedabout old times, but the more he drank the less i liked the look on his face. i spotted that harpoon upon the wall, and ithought i might need it before i was through. then at last he broke out at me, spittingand cursing, with murder in his eyes and a great clasp-knife in his hand.he had not time to get it from the sheath
before i had the harpoon through him. heavens! what a yell he gave! and his facegets between me and my sleep. i stood there, with his blood splashinground me, and i waited for a bit, but all was quiet, so i took heart once more. i looked round, and there was the tin boxon the shelf. i had as much right to it as peter carey,anyhow, so i took it with me and left the hut. like a fool i left my baccy-pouch upon thetable. "now i'll tell you the queerest part of thewhole story.
i had hardly got outside the hut when iheard someone coming, and i hid among the bushes. a man came slinking along, went into thehut, gave a cry as if he had seen a ghost, and legged it as hard as he could run untilhe was out of sight. who he was or what he wanted is more than ican tell. for my part i walked ten miles, got a trainat tunbridge wells, and so reached london, and no one the wiser. "well, when i came to examine the box ifound there was no money in it, and nothing but papers that i would not dare to sell.i had lost my hold on black peter and was
stranded in london without a shilling. there was only my trade left.i saw these advertisements about harpooners, and high wages, so i went tothe shipping agents, and they sent me here. that's all i know, and i say again that ifi killed black peter, the law should give me thanks, for i saved them the price of ahempen rope." "a very clear statement said holmes,"rising and lighting his pipe. "i think, hopkins, that you should lose notime in conveying your prisoner to a place of safety. this room is not well adapted for a cell,and mr. patrick cairns occupies too large
a proportion of our carpet."" mr. holmes," said hopkins, "i do not know how to express my gratitude. even now i do not understand how youattained this result." "simply by having the good fortune to getthe right clue from the beginning. it is very possible if i had known aboutthis notebook it might have led away my thoughts, as it did yours.but all i heard pointed in the one direction. the amazing strength, the skill in the useof the harpoon, the rum and water, the sealskin tobacco-pouch with the coarsetobacco--all these pointed to a seaman, and
one who had been a whaler. i was convinced that the initials 'p.c.'upon the pouch were a coincidence, and not those of peter carey, since he seldomsmoked, and no pipe was found in his cabin. you remember that i asked whether whiskyand brandy were in the cabin. you said they were. how many landsmen are there who would drinkrum when they could get these other spirits?yes, i was certain it was a seaman." "and how did you find him?" "my dear sir, the problem had become a verysimple one.
if it were a seaman, it could only be aseaman who had been with him on the sea unicorn. so far as i could learn he had sailed in noother ship. i spent three days in wiring to dundee, andat the end of that time i had ascertained the names of the crew of the sea unicorn in1883. when i found patrick cairns among theharpooners, my research was nearing its end. i argued that the man was probably inlondon, and that he would desire to leave the country for a time.
i therefore spent some days in the eastend, devised an arctic expedition, put forth tempting terms for harpooners whowould serve under captain basil--and behold the result!" "wonderful!" cried hopkins."wonderful!" "you must obtain the release of youngneligan as soon as possible," said holmes. "i confess that i think you owe him someapology. the tin box must be returned to him, but,of course, the securities which peter carey has sold are lost forever. there's the cab, hopkins, and you canremove your man.
if you want me for the trial, my addressand that of watson will be somewhere in norway--i'll send particulars later." > the adventure of charles augustus milverton it is years since the incidents of which ispeak took place, and yet it is with diffidence that i allude to them. for a long time, even with the utmostdiscretion and reticence, it would have been impossible to make the facts public,but now the principal person concerned is beyond the reach of human law, and with due
suppression the story may be told in suchfashion as to injure no one. it records an absolutely unique experiencein the career both of mr. sherlock holmes and of myself. the reader will excuse me if i conceal thedate or any other fact by which he might trace the actual occurrence. we had been out for one of our eveningrambles, holmes and i, and had returned about six o'clock on a cold, frostywinter's evening. as holmes turned up the lamp the light fellupon a card on the table. he glanced at it, and then, with anejaculation of disgust, threw it on the
floor. i picked it up and read:charles augustus milverton, appledore towers, hampstead.agent. "who is he?" i asked."the worst man in london," holmes answered, as he sat down and stretched his legsbefore the fire. "is anything on the back of the card?" i turned it over."will call at 6:30--c.a.m.," i read. "hum!he's about due.
do you feel a creeping, shrinkingsensation, watson, when you stand before the serpents in the zoo, and see theslithery, gliding, venomous creatures, with their deadly eyes and wicked, flattenedfaces? well, that's how milverton impresses me. i've had to do with fifty murderers in mycareer, but the worst of them never gave me the repulsion which i have for this fellow. and yet i can't get out of doing businesswith him--indeed, he is here at my invitation.""but who is he?" "i'll tell you, watson.
he is the king of all the blackmailers.heaven help the man, and still more the woman, whose secret and reputation comeinto the power of milverton! with a smiling face and a heart of marble,he will squeeze and squeeze until he has drained them dry. the fellow is a genius in his way, andwould have made his mark in some more savoury trade. his method is as follows: he allows it tobe known that he is prepared to pay very high sums for letters which compromisepeople of wealth and position. he receives these wares not only fromtreacherous valets or maids, but frequently
from genteel ruffians, who have gained theconfidence and affection of trusting women. he deals with no niggard hand. i happen to know that he paid seven hundredpounds to a footman for a note two lines in length, and that the ruin of a noble familywas the result. everything which is in the market goes tomilverton, and there are hundreds in this great city who turn white at his name. no one knows where his grip may fall, forhe is far too rich and far too cunning to work from hand to mouth. he will hold a card back for years in orderto play it at the moment when the stake is
best worth winning. i have said that he is the worst man inlondon, and i would ask you how could one compare the ruffian, who in hot bloodbludgeons his mate, with this man, who methodically and at his leisure tortures the soul and wrings the nerves in order toadd to his already swollen money-bags?" i had seldom heard my friend speak withsuch intensity of feeling. "but surely," said i, "the fellow must bewithin the grasp of the law?" "technically, no doubt, but practicallynot. what would it profit a woman, for example,to get him a few months' imprisonment if
her own ruin must immediately follow?his victims dare not hit back. if ever he blackmailed an innocent person,then indeed we should have him, but he is as cunning as the evil one.no, no, we must find other ways to fight him." "and why is he here?""because an illustrious client has placed her piteous case in my hands.it is the lady eva blackwell, the most beautiful debutante of last season. she is to be married in a fortnight to theearl of dovercourt. this fiend has several imprudent letters--imprudent, watson, nothing worse--which
were written to an impecunious young squirein the country. they would suffice to break off the match. milverton will send the letters to the earlunless a large sum of money is paid him. i have been commissioned to meet him, and--to make the best terms i can." at that instant there was a clatter and arattle in the street below. looking down i saw a stately carriage andpair, the brilliant lamps gleaming on the glossy haunches of the noble chestnuts. a footman opened the door, and a small,stout man in a shaggy astrakhan overcoat descended.a minute later he was in the room.
charles augustus milverton was a man offifty, with a large, intellectual head, a round, plump, hairless face, a perpetualfrozen smile, and two keen gray eyes, which gleamed brightly from behind broad, gold-rimmed glasses. there was something of mr. pickwick'sbenevolence in his appearance, marred only by the insincerity of the fixed smile andby the hard glitter of those restless and penetrating eyes. his voice was as smooth and suave as hiscountenance, as he advanced with a plump little hand extended, murmuring his regretfor having missed us at his first visit. holmes disregarded the outstretched handand looked at him with a face of granite.
milverton's smile broadened, he shruggedhis shoulders removed his overcoat, folded it with great deliberation over the back ofa chair, and then took a seat. "this gentleman?" said he, with a wave inmy direction. "is it discreet?is it right?" " dr. watson is my friend and partner." "very good, mr. holmes.it is only in your client's interests that i protested.the matter is so very delicate----" " dr. watson has already heard of it." "then we can proceed to business.you say that you are acting for lady eva.
has she empowered you to accept my terms?""what are your terms?" "seven thousand pounds." "and the alternative?""my dear sir, it is painful for me to discuss it, but if the money is not paid onthe 14th, there certainly will be no marriage on the 18th." his insufferable smile was more complacentthan ever. holmes thought for a little."you appear to me," he said, at last, "to be taking matters too much for granted. i am, of course, familiar with the contentsof these letters.
my client will certainly do what i mayadvise. i shall counsel her to tell her futurehusband the whole story and to trust to his generosity."milverton chuckled. "you evidently do not know the earl," saidhe. from the baffled look upon holmes's face, icould see clearly that he did. "what harm is there in the letters?" heasked. "they are sprightly--very sprightly,"milverton answered. "the lady was a charming correspondent. but i can assure you that the earl ofdovercourt would fail to appreciate them.
however, since you think otherwise, we willlet it rest at that. it is purely a matter of business. if you think that it is in the bestinterests of your client that these letters should be placed in the hands of the earl,then you would indeed be foolish to pay so large a sum of money to regain them." he rose and seized his astrakhan coat.holmes was gray with anger and mortification."wait a little," he said. "you go too fast. we should certainly make every effort toavoid scandal in so delicate a matter."
milverton relapsed into his chair."i was sure that you would see it in that light," he purred. "at the same time," holmes continued, "ladyeva is not a wealthy woman. i assure you that two thousand pounds wouldbe a drain upon her resources, and that the sum you name is utterly beyond her power. i beg, therefore, that you will moderateyour demands, and that you will return the letters at the price i indicate, which is,i assure you, the highest that you can get." milverton's smile broadened and his eyestwinkled humorously.
"i am aware that what you say is true aboutthe lady's resources," said he. "at the same time you must admit that theoccasion of a lady's marriage is a very suitable time for her friends and relativesto make some little effort upon her behalf. they may hesitate as to an acceptablewedding present. let me assure them that this little bundleof letters would give more joy than all the candelabra and butter-dishes in london." "it is impossible," said holmes."dear me, dear me, how unfortunate!" cried milverton, taking out a bulky pocketbook."i cannot help thinking that ladies are ill-advised in not making an effort.
look at this!"he held up a little note with a coat-of- arms upon the envelope. "that belongs to--well, perhaps it ishardly fair to tell the name until to- morrow morning.but at that time it will be in the hands of the lady's husband. and all because she will not find abeggarly sum which she could get by turning her diamonds into paste.it is such a pity! now, you remember the sudden end of theengagement between the honourable miss miles and colonel dorking?
only two days before the wedding, there wasa paragraph in the morning post to say that it was all off.and why? it is almost incredible, but the absurd sumof twelve hundred pounds would have settled the whole question.is it not pitiful? and here i find you, a man of sense,boggling about terms, when your client's future and honour are at stake.you surprise me, mr. holmes." "what i say is true," holmes answered. "the money cannot be found.surely it is better for you to take the substantial sum which i offer than to ruinthis woman's career, which can profit you
in no way?" "there you make a mistake, mr. holmes.an exposure would profit me indirectly to a considerable extent.i have eight or ten similar cases maturing. if it was circulated among them that i hadmade a severe example of the lady eva, i should find all of them much more open toreason. you see my point?" holmes sprang from his chair."get behind him, watson! don't let him out!now, sir, let us see the contents of that notebook."
milverton had glided as quick as a rat tothe side of the room and stood with his back against the wall. " mr. holmes, mr. holmes," he said,turning the front of his coat and exhibiting the butt of a large revolver,which projected from the inside pocket. "i have been expecting you to do somethingoriginal. this has been done so often, and what goodhas ever come from it? i assure you that i am armed to the teeth,and i am perfectly prepared to use my weapons, knowing that the law will supportme. besides, your supposition that i wouldbring the letters here in a notebook is
entirely mistaken.i would do nothing so foolish. and now, gentlemen, i have one or twolittle interviews this evening, and it is a long drive to hampstead." he stepped forward, took up his coat, laidhis hand on his revolver, and turned to the door.i picked up a chair, but holmes shook his head, and i laid it down again. with bow, a smile, and a twinkle, milvertonwas out of the room, and a few moments after we heard the slam of the carriagedoor and the rattle of the wheels as he drove away.
holmes sat motionless by the fire, hishands buried deep in his trouser pockets, his chin sunk upon his breast, his eyesfixed upon the glowing embers. for half an hour he was silent and still. then, with the gesture of a man who hastaken his decision, he sprang to his feet and passed into his bedroom. a little later a rakish young workman, witha goatee beard and a swagger, lit his clay pipe at the lamp before descending into thestreet. "i'll be back some time, watson," said he,and vanished into the night. i understood that he had opened hiscampaign against charles augustus
milverton, but i little dreamed the strangeshape which that campaign was destined to take. for some days holmes came and went at allhours in this attire, but beyond a remark that his time was spent at hampstead, andthat it was not wasted, i knew nothing of what he was doing. at last, however, on a wild, tempestuousevening, when the wind screamed and rattled against the windows, he returned from hislast expedition, and having removed his disguise he sat before the fire and laughedheartily in his silent inward fashion. "you would not call me a marrying man,watson?"
"no, indeed!" "you'll be interested to hear that i'mengaged." "my dear fellow!i congrat----" "to milverton's housemaid." "good heavens, holmes!""i wanted information, watson." "surely you have gone too far?""it was a most necessary step. i am a plumber with a rising business,escott, by name. i have walked out with her each evening,and i have talked with her. good heavens, those talks!
however, i have got all i wanted.i know milverton's house as i know the palm of my hand.""but the girl, holmes?" he shrugged his shoulders. "you can't help it, my dear watson.you must play your cards as best you can when such a stake is on the table. however, i rejoice to say that i have ahated rival, who will certainly cut me out the instant that my back is turned.what a splendid night it is!" "you like this weather?" "it suits my purpose.watson, i mean to burgle milverton's house
to-night." i had a catching of the breath, and my skinwent cold at the words, which were slowly uttered in a tone of concentratedresolution. as a flash of lightning in the night showsup in an instant every detail of a wild landscape, so at one glance i seemed to seeevery possible result of such an action-- the detection, the capture, the honoured career ending in irreparable failure anddisgrace, my friend himself lying at the mercy of the odious milverton."for heaven's sake, holmes, think what you are doing," i cried.
"my dear fellow, i have given it everyconsideration. i am never precipitate in my actions, norwould i adopt so energetic and, indeed, so dangerous a course, if any other werepossible. let us look at the matter clearly andfairly. i suppose that you will admit that theaction is morally justifiable, though technically criminal. to burgle his house is no more than toforcibly take his pocketbook--an action in which you were prepared to aid me."i turned it over in my mind. "yes," i said, "it is morally justifiableso long as our object is to take no
articles save those which are used for anillegal purpose." "exactly. since it is morally justifiable, i haveonly to consider the question of personal risk. surely a gentleman should not lay muchstress upon this, when a lady is in most desperate need of his help?""you will be in such a false position." "well, that is part of the risk. there is no other possible way of regainingthese letters. the unfortunate lady has not the money, andthere are none of her people in whom she
could confide. to-morrow is the last day of grace, andunless we can get the letters to-night, this villain will be as good as his wordand will bring about her ruin. i must, therefore, abandon my client to herfate or i must play this last card. between ourselves, watson, it's a sportingduel between this fellow milverton and me. he had, as you saw, the best of the firstexchanges, but my self-respect and my reputation are concerned to fight it to afinish." "well, i don't like it, but i suppose itmust be," said i. "when do we start?""you are not coming."
"then you are not going," said i. "i give you my word of honour--and i neverbroke it in my life--that i will take a cab straight to the police-station and give youaway, unless you let me share this adventure with you." "you can't help me.""how do you know that? you can't tell what may happen.anyway, my resolution is taken. other people besides you have self-respect,and even reputations." holmes had looked annoyed, but his browcleared, and he clapped me on the shoulder. "well, well, my dear fellow, be it so.
we have shared this same room for someyears, and it would be amusing if we ended by sharing the same cell. you know, watson, i don't mind confessingto you that i have always had an idea that i would have made a highly efficientcriminal. this is the chance of my lifetime in thatdirection. see here!" he took a neat little leather case out of adrawer, and opening it he exhibited a number of shining instruments. "this is a first-class, up-to-date burglingkit, with nickel-plated jemmy, diamond-
tipped glass-cutter, adaptable keys, andevery modern improvement which the march of civilization demands. here, too, is my dark lantern.everything is in order. have you a pair of silent shoes?""i have rubber-soled tennis shoes." "excellent! and a mask?""i can make a couple out of black silk." "i can see that you have a strong, naturalturn for this sort of thing. very good, do you make the masks. we shall have some cold supper before westart.
it is now nine-thirty.at eleven we shall drive as far as church row. it is a quarter of an hour's walk fromthere to appledore towers. we shall be at work before midnight.milverton is a heavy sleeper, and retires punctually at ten-thirty. with any luck we should be back here bytwo, with the lady eva's letters in my pocket." holmes and i put on our dress-clothes, sothat we might appear to be two theatre- goers homeward bound.in oxford street we picked up a hansom and
drove to an address in hampstead. here we paid off our cab, and with ourgreat coats buttoned up, for it was bitterly cold, and the wind seemed to blowthrough us, we walked along the edge of the heath. "it's a business that needs delicatetreatment," said holmes. "these documents are contained in a safe inthe fellow's study, and the study is the ante-room of his bed-chamber. on the other hand, like all these stout,little men who do themselves well, he is a plethoric sleeper.
agatha--that's my fiancee--says it is ajoke in the servants' hall that it's impossible to wake the master. he has a secretary who is devoted to hisinterests, and never budges from the study all day.that's why we are going at night. then he has a beast of a dog which roamsthe garden. i met agatha late the last two evenings,and she locks the brute up so as to give me a clear run. this is the house, this big one in its owngrounds. through the gate--now to the right amongthe laurels.
we might put on our masks here, i think. you see, there is not a glimmer of light inany of the windows, and everything is working splendidly." with our black silk face-coverings, whichturned us into two of the most truculent figures in london, we stole up to thesilent, gloomy house. a sort of tiled veranda extended along oneside of it, lined by several windows and two doors."that's his bedroom," holmes whispered. "this door opens straight into the study. it would suit us best, but it is bolted aswell as locked, and we should make too much
noise getting in.come round here. there's a greenhouse which opens into thedrawing-room." the place was locked, but holmes removed acircle of glass and turned the key from the inside. an instant afterwards he had closed thedoor behind us, and we had become felons in the eyes of the law. the thick, warm air of the conservatory andthe rich, choking fragrance of exotic plants took us by the throat. he seized my hand in the darkness and ledme swiftly past banks of shrubs which
brushed against our faces.holmes had remarkable powers, carefully cultivated, of seeing in the dark. still holding my hand in one of his, heopened a door, and i was vaguely conscious that we had entered a large room in which acigar had been smoked not long before. he felt his way among the furniture, openedanother door, and closed it behind us. putting out my hand i felt several coatshanging from the wall, and i understood that i was in a passage. we passed along it and holmes very gentlyopened a door upon the right-hand side. something rushed out at us and my heartsprang into my mouth, but i could have
laughed when i realized that it was thecat. a fire was burning in this new room, andagain the air was heavy with tobacco smoke. holmes entered on tiptoe, waited for me tofollow, and then very gently closed the door. we were in milverton's study, and aportiere at the farther side showed the entrance to his bedroom.it was a good fire, and the room was illuminated by it. near the door i saw the gleam of anelectric switch, but it was unnecessary, even if it had been safe, to turn it on.
at one side of the fireplace was a heavycurtain which covered the bay window we had seen from outside.on the other side was the door which communicated with the veranda. a desk stood in the centre, with a turning-chair of shining red leather. opposite was a large bookcase, with amarble bust of athene on the top. in the corner, between the bookcase and thewall, there stood a tall, green safe, the firelight flashing back from the polishedbrass knobs upon its face. holmes stole across and looked at it. then he crept to the door of the bedroom,and stood with slanting head listening
intently.no sound came from within. meanwhile it had struck me that it would bewise to secure our retreat through the outer door, so i examined it.to my amazement, it was neither locked nor bolted. i touched holmes on the arm, and he turnedhis masked face in that direction. i saw him start, and he was evidently assurprised as i. "i don't like it," he whispered, puttinghis lips to my very ear. "i can't quite make it out.anyhow, we have no time to lose." "can i do anything?"
"yes, stand by the door.if you hear anyone come, bolt it on the inside, and we can get away as we came. if they come the other way, we can getthrough the door if our job is done, or hide behind these window curtains if it isnot. do you understand?" i nodded, and stood by the door. my first feeling of fear had passed away,and i thrilled now with a keener zest than i had ever enjoyed when we were thedefenders of the law instead of its defiers.
the high object of our mission, theconsciousness that it was unselfish and chivalrous, the villainous character of ouropponent, all added to the sporting interest of the adventure. far from feeling guilty, i rejoiced andexulted in our dangers. with a glow of admiration i watched holmesunrolling his case of instruments and choosing his tool with the calm, scientificaccuracy of a surgeon who performs a delicate operation. i knew that the opening of safes was aparticular hobby with him, and i understood the joy which it gave him to be confrontedwith this green and gold monster, the
dragon which held in its maw thereputations of many fair ladies. turning up the cuffs of his dress-coat--hehad placed his overcoat on a chair--holmes laid out two drills, a jemmy, and severalskeleton keys. i stood at the centre door with my eyesglancing at each of the others, ready for any emergency, though, indeed, my planswere somewhat vague as to what i should do if we were interrupted. for half an hour, holmes worked withconcentrated energy, laying down one tool, picking up another, handling each with thestrength and delicacy of the trained mechanic.
finally i heard a click, the broad greendoor swung open, and inside i had a glimpse of a number of paper packets, each tied,sealed, and inscribed. holmes picked one out, but it was as hardto read by the flickering fire, and he drew out his little dark lantern, for it was toodangerous, with milverton in the next room, to switch on the electric light. suddenly i saw him halt, listen intently,and then in an instant he had swung the door of the safe to, picked up his coat,stuffed his tools into the pockets, and darted behind the window curtain, motioningme to do the same. it was only when i had joined him therethat i heard what had alarmed his quicker
senses. there was a noise somewhere within thehouse. a door slammed in the distance. then a confused, dull murmur broke itselfinto the measured thud of heavy footsteps rapidly approaching.they were in the passage outside the room. they paused at the door. the door opened.there was a sharp snick as the electric light was turned on. the door closed once more, and the pungentreek of a strong cigar was borne to our
nostrils. then the footsteps continued backward andforward, backward and forward, within a few yards of us.finally there was a creak from a chair, and the footsteps ceased. then a key clicked in a lock, and i heardthe rustle of papers. so far i had not dared to look out, but nowi gently parted the division of the curtains in front of me and peeped through. from the pressure of holmes's shoulderagainst mine, i knew that he was sharing my observations.
right in front of us, and almost within ourreach, was the broad, rounded back of milverton. it was evident that we had entirelymiscalculated his movements, that he had never been to his bedroom, but that he hadbeen sitting up in some smoking or billiard room in the farther wing of the house, thewindows of which we had not seen. his broad, grizzled head, with its shiningpatch of baldness, was in the immediate foreground of our vision. he was leaning far back in the red leatherchair, his legs outstretched, a long, black cigar projecting at an angle from hismouth.
he wore a semi-military smoking jacket,claret-coloured, with a black velvet collar. in his hand he held a long, legal documentwhich he was reading in an indolent fashion, blowing rings of tobacco smokefrom his lips as he did so. there was no promise of a speedy departurein his composed bearing and his comfortable attitude. i felt holmes's hand steal into mine andgive me a reassuring shake, as if to say that the situation was within his powers,and that he was easy in his mind. i was not sure whether he had seen what wasonly too obvious from my position, that the
door of the safe was imperfectly closed,and that milverton might at any moment observe it. in my own mind i had determined that if iwere sure, from the rigidity of his gaze, that it had caught his eye, i would at oncespring out, throw my great coat over his head, pinion him, and leave the rest toholmes. but milverton never looked up. he was languidly interested by the papersin his hand, and page after page was turned as he followed the argument of the lawyer. at least, i thought, when he has finishedthe document and the cigar he will go to
his room, but before he had reached the endof either, there came a remarkable development, which turned our thoughts intoquite another channel. several times i had observed that milvertonlooked at his watch, and once he had risen and sat down again, with a gesture ofimpatience. the idea, however, that he might have anappointment at so strange an hour never occurred to me until a faint sound reachedmy ears from the veranda outside. milverton dropped his papers and sat rigidin his chair. the sound was repeated, and then there camea gentle tap at the door. milverton rose and opened it.
"well," said he, curtly, "you are nearlyhalf an hour late." so this was the explanation of the unlockeddoor and of the nocturnal vigil of there was the gentle rustle of a woman'sdress. i had closed the slit between the curtainsas milverton's face had turned in our direction, but now i ventured verycarefully to open it once more. he had resumed his seat, the cigar stillprojecting at an insolent angle from the corner of his mouth. in front of him, in the full glare of theelectric light, there stood a tall, slim, dark woman, a veil over her face, a mantledrawn round her chin.
her breath came quick and fast, and everyinch of the lithe figure was quivering with strong emotion."well," said milverton, "you made me lose a good night's rest, my dear. i hope you'll prove worth it.you couldn't come any other time--eh?" the woman shook her head."well, if you couldn't you couldn't. if the countess is a hard mistress, youhave your chance to get level with her now. bless the girl, what are you shiveringabout? that's right. pull yourself together.now, let us get down to business."
he took a notebook from the drawer of hisdesk. "you say that you have five letters whichcompromise the countess d'albert. you want to sell them.i want to buy them. so far so good. it only remains to fix a price.i should want to inspect the letters, of course.if they are really good specimens--great heavens, is it you?" the woman, without a word, had raised herveil and dropped the mantle from her chin. it was a dark, handsome, clear-cut facewhich confronted milverton--a face with a
curved nose, strong, dark eyebrows shadinghard, glittering eyes, and a straight, thin-lipped mouth set in a dangerous smile. "it is i," she said, "the woman whose lifeyou have ruined." milverton laughed, but fear vibrated in hisvoice. "you were so very obstinate," said he. "why did you drive me to such extremities?i assure you i wouldn't hurt a fly of my own accord, but every man has his business,and what was i to do? i put the price well within your means. you would not pay.""so you sent the letters to my husband, and
he--the noblest gentleman that ever lived,a man whose boots i was never worthy to lace--he broke his gallant heart and died. you remember that last night, when i camethrough that door, i begged and prayed you for mercy, and you laughed in my face asyou are trying to laugh now, only your coward heart cannot keep your lips fromtwitching. yes, you never thought to see me hereagain, but it was that night which taught me how i could meet you face to face, andalone. well, charles milverton, what have you tosay?" "don't imagine that you can bully me," saidhe, rising to his feet.
"i have only to raise my voice and i couldcall my servants and have you arrested. but i will make allowance for your naturalanger. leave the room at once as you came, and iwill say no more." the woman stood with her hand buried in herbosom, and the same deadly smile on her thin lips. "you will ruin no more lives as you haveruined mine. you will wring no more hearts as you wrungmine. i will free the world of a poisonous thing. take that, you hound--and that!--and that!--and that!"
she had drawn a little gleaming revolver,and emptied barrel after barrel into milverton's body, the muzzle within twofeet of his shirt front. he shrank away and then fell forward uponthe table, coughing furiously and clawing among the papers.then he staggered to his feet, received another shot, and rolled upon the floor. "you've done me," he cried, and lay still.the woman looked at him intently, and ground her heel into his upturned face.she looked again, but there was no sound or movement. i heard a sharp rustle, the night air blewinto the heated room, and the avenger was
gone. no interference upon our part could havesaved the man from his fate, but, as the woman poured bullet after bullet intomilverton's shrinking body i was about to spring out, when i felt holmes's cold,strong grasp upon my wrist. i understood the whole argument of thatfirm, restraining grip--that it was no affair of ours, that justice had overtakena villain, that we had our own duties and our own objects, which were not to be lostsight of. but hardly had the woman rushed from theroom when holmes, with swift, silent steps, was over at the other door.
he turned the key in the lock.at the same instant we heard voices in the house and the sound of hurrying feet.the revolver shots had roused the household. with perfect coolness holmes slipped acrossto the safe, filled his two arms with bundles of letters, and poured them allinto the fire. again and again he did it, until the safewas empty. someone turned the handle and beat upon theoutside of the door. holmes looked swiftly round. the letter which had been the messenger ofdeath for milverton lay, all mottled with
his blood, upon the table.holmes tossed it in among the blazing papers. then he drew the key from the outer door,passed through after me, and locked it on the outside."this way, watson," said he, "we can scale the garden wall in this direction." i could not have believed that an alarmcould have spread so swiftly. looking back, the huge house was one blazeof light. the front door was open, and figures wererushing down the drive. the whole garden was alive with people, andone fellow raised a view-halloa as we
emerged from the veranda and followed hardat our heels. holmes seemed to know the groundsperfectly, and he threaded his way swiftly among a plantation of small trees, i closeat his heels, and our foremost pursuer panting behind us. it was a six-foot wall which barred ourpath, but he sprang to the top and over. as i did the same i felt the hand of theman behind me grab at my ankle, but i kicked myself free and scrambled over agrass-strewn coping. i fell upon my face among some bushes, butholmes had me on my feet in an instant, and together we dashed away across the hugeexpanse of hampstead heath.
we had run two miles, i suppose, beforeholmes at last halted and listened intently.all was absolute silence behind us. we had shaken off our pursuers and weresafe. we had breakfasted and were smoking ourmorning pipe on the day after the remarkable experience which i haverecorded, when mr. lestrade, of scotland yard, very solemn and impressive, wasushered into our modest sitting-room. "good-morning, mr. holmes," said he;"good-morning. may i ask if you are very busy just now?" "not too busy to listen to you."
"i thought that, perhaps, if you hadnothing particular on hand, you might care to assist us in a most remarkable case,which occurred only last night at hampstead." "dear me!" said holmes."what was that?" "a murder--a most dramatic and remarkablemurder. i know how keen you are upon these things,and i would take it as a great favour if you would step down to appledore towers,and give us the benefit of your advice. it is no ordinary crime. we have had our eyes upon this mr.milverton for some time, and, between
ourselves, he was a bit of a villain.he is known to have held papers which he used for blackmailing purposes. these papers have all been burned by themurderers. no article of value was taken, as it isprobable that the criminals were men of good position, whose sole object was toprevent social exposure." "criminals?" said holmes. "plural?""yes, there were two of them. they were as nearly as possible capturedred-handed. we have their footmarks, we have theirdescription, it's ten to one that we trace
the first fellow was a bit too active, butthe second was caught by the under- gardener, and only got away after astruggle. he was a middle-sized, strongly built man--square jaw, thick neck, moustache, a mask over his eyes.""that's rather vague," said sherlock holmes. "my, it might be a description of watson!""it's true," said the inspector, with amusement."it might be a description of watson." "well, i'm afraid i can't help you,lestrade," said holmes. "the fact is that i knew this fellowmilverton, that i considered him one of the
most dangerous men in london, and that ithink there are certain crimes which the law cannot touch, and which therefore, tosome extent, justify private revenge. no, it's no use arguing.i have made up my mind. my sympathies are with the criminals ratherthan with the victim, and i will not handle this case." holmes had not said one word to me aboutthe tragedy which we had witnessed, but i observed all the morning that he was in hismost thoughtful mood, and he gave me the impression, from his vacant eyes and his abstracted manner, of a man who is strivingto recall something to his memory.
we were in the middle of our lunch, when hesuddenly sprang to his feet. "by jove, watson, i've got it!" he cried. "take your hat!come with me!" he hurried at his top speed down bakerstreet and along oxford street, until we had almost reached regent circus. here, on the left hand, there stands a shopwindow filled with photographs of the celebrities and beauties of the day. holmes's eyes fixed themselves upon one ofthem, and following his gaze i saw the picture of a regal and stately lady incourt dress, with a high diamond tiara upon
her noble head. i looked at that delicately curved nose, atthe marked eyebrows, at the straight mouth, and the strong little chin beneath it. then i caught my breath as i read the time-honoured title of the great nobleman and statesman whose wife she had been. my eyes met those of holmes, and he put hisfinger to his lips as we turned away from the window. the adventure of the six napoleons it was no very unusual thing for mr.lestrade, of scotland yard, to look in upon
us of an evening, and his visits werewelcome to sherlock holmes, for they enabled him to keep in touch with all thatwas going on at the police headquarters. in return for the news which lestrade wouldbring, holmes was always ready to listen with attention to the details of any caseupon which the detective was engaged, and was able occasionally, without any active interference, to give some hint orsuggestion drawn from his own vast knowledge and experience.on this particular evening, lestrade had spoken of the weather and the newspapers. then he had fallen silent, puffingthoughtfully at his cigar.
holmes looked keenly at him."anything remarkable on hand?" he asked. "oh, no, mr. holmes--nothing veryparticular." "then tell me about it."lestrade laughed. "well, mr. holmes, there is no use denyingthat there is something on my mind. and yet it is such an absurd business, thati hesitated to bother you about it. on the other hand, although it is trivial,it is undoubtedly queer, and i know that you have a taste for all that is out of thecommon. but, in my opinion, it comes more in dr.watson's line than ours." "disease?" said i."madness, anyhow.
and a queer madness, too. you wouldn't think there was anyone livingat this time of day who had such a hatred of napoleon the first that he would breakany image of him that he could see." holmes sank back in his chair. "that's no business of mine," said he."exactly. that's what i said. but then, when the man commits burglary inorder to break images which are not his own, that brings it away from the doctorand on to the policeman." holmes sat up again.
"burglary!this is more interesting. let me hear the details."lestrade took out his official notebook and refreshed his memory from its pages. "the first case reported was four daysago," said he. "it was at the shop of morse hudson, whohas a place for the sale of pictures and statues in the kennington road. the assistant had left the front shop foran instant, when he heard a crash, and hurrying in he found a plaster bust ofnapoleon, which stood with several other works of art upon the counter, lyingshivered into fragments.
he rushed out into the road, but, althoughseveral passers-by declared that they had noticed a man run out of the shop, he couldneither see anyone nor could he find any means of identifying the rascal. it seemed to be one of those senseless actsof hooliganism which occur from time to time, and it was reported to the constableon the beat as such. the plaster cast was not worth more than afew shillings, and the whole affair appeared to be too childish for anyparticular investigation. "the second case, however, was moreserious, and also more singular. it occurred only last night.
"in kennington road, and within a fewhundred yards of morse hudson's shop, there lives a well-known medical practitioner,named dr. barnicot, who has one of the largest practices upon the south side ofthe thames. his residence and principal consulting-roomis at kennington road, but he has a branch surgery and dispensary at lower brixtonroad, two miles away. this dr. barnicot is an enthusiasticadmirer of napoleon, and his house is full of books, pictures, and relics of thefrench emperor. some little time ago he purchased frommorse hudson two duplicate plaster casts of the famous head of napoleon by the frenchsculptor, devine.
one of these he placed in his hall in thehouse at kennington road, and the other on the mantelpiece of the surgery at lowerbrixton. well, when dr. barnicot came down thismorning he was astonished to find that his house had been burgled during the night,but that nothing had been taken save the plaster head from the hall. it had been carried out and had been dashedsavagely against the garden wall, under which its splintered fragments werediscovered." holmes rubbed his hands. "this is certainly very novel," said he."i thought it would please you.
but i have not got to the end yet. dr. barnicot was due at his surgery attwelve o'clock, and you can imagine his amazement when, on arriving there, he foundthat the window had been opened in the night and that the broken pieces of hissecond bust were strewn all over the room. it had been smashed to atoms where itstood. in neither case were there any signs whichcould give us a clue as to the criminal or lunatic who had done the mischief.now, mr. holmes, you have got the facts." "they are singular, not to say grotesque,"said holmes. "may i ask whether the two busts smashed indr. barnicot's rooms were the exact
duplicates of the one which was destroyedin morse hudson's shop?" "they were taken from the same mould." "such a fact must tell against the theorythat the man who breaks them is influenced by any general hatred of napoleon. considering how many hundreds of statues ofthe great emperor must exist in london, it is too much to suppose such a coincidenceas that a promiscuous iconoclast should chance to begin upon three specimens of thesame bust." "well, i thought as you do," said lestrade. "on the other hand, this morse hudson isthe purveyor of busts in that part of
london, and these three were the only oneswhich had been in his shop for years. so, although, as you say, there are manyhundreds of statues in london, it is very probable that these three were the onlyones in that district. therefore, a local fanatic would begin withthem. what do you think, dr. watson?""there are no limits to the possibilities of monomania," i answered. "there is the condition which the modernfrench psychologists have called the 'idee fixe,' which may be trifling in character,and accompanied by complete sanity in every other way.
a man who had read deeply about napoleon,or who had possibly received some hereditary family injury through the greatwar, might conceivably form such an idee fixe and under its influence be capable ofany fantastic outrage." "that won't do, my dear watson," saidholmes, shaking his head, "for no amount of idee fixe would enable your interestingmonomaniac to find out where these busts were situated." "well, how do you explain it?""i don't attempt to do so. i would only observe that there is acertain method in the gentleman's eccentric proceedings.
for example, in dr. barnicot's hall, wherea sound might arouse the family, the bust was taken outside before being broken,whereas in the surgery, where there was less danger of an alarm, it was smashedwhere it stood. the affair seems absurdly trifling, and yeti dare call nothing trivial when i reflect that some of my most classic cases have hadthe least promising commencement. you will remember, watson, how the dreadfulbusiness of the abernetty family was first brought to my notice by the depth which theparsley had sunk into the butter upon a hot day. i can't afford, therefore, to smile at yourthree broken busts, lestrade, and i shall
be very much obliged to you if you will letme hear of any fresh development of so singular a chain of events." the development for which my friend hadasked came in a quicker and an infinitely more tragic form than he could haveimagined. i was still dressing in my bedroom nextmorning, when there was a tap at the door and holmes entered, a telegram in his hand.he read it aloud: "come instantly, 131 pitt street,kensington. "lestrade.""what is it, then?" i asked.
"don't know--may be anything.but i suspect it is the sequel of the story of the statues. in that case our friend the image-breakerhas begun operations in another quarter of london.there's coffee on the table, watson, and i have a cab at the door." in half an hour we had reached pitt street,a quiet little backwater just beside one of the briskest currents of london life.no. 131 was one of a row, all flat-chested,respectable, and most unromantic dwellings. as we drove up, we found the railings infront of the house lined by a curious
crowd. holmes whistled."by george! it's attempted murder at the least.nothing less will hold the london message- boy. there's a deed of violence indicated inthat fellow's round shoulders and outstretched neck.what's this, watson? the top steps swilled down and the otherones dry. footsteps enough, anyhow! well, well, there's lestrade at the frontwindow, and we shall soon know all about
it." the official received us with a very graveface and showed us into a sitting-room, where an exceedingly unkempt and agitatedelderly man, clad in a flannel dressing- gown, was pacing up and down. he was introduced to us as the owner of thehouse-- mr. horace harker, of the central press syndicate."it's the napoleon bust business again," said lestrade. "you seemed interested last night, mr.holmes, so i thought perhaps you would be glad to be present now that the affair hastaken a very much graver turn."
"what has it turned to, then?" "to murder.mr. harker, will you tell these gentlemen exactly what has occurred?"the man in the dressing-gown turned upon us with a most melancholy face. "it's an extraordinary thing," said he,"that all my life i have been collecting other people's news, and now that a realpiece of news has come my own way i am so confused and bothered that i can't put twowords together. if i had come in here as a journalist, ishould have interviewed myself and had two columns in every evening paper.
as it is, i am giving away valuable copy bytelling my story over and over to a string of different people, and i can make no useof it myself. however, i've heard your name, mr.sherlock holmes, and if you'll only explain this queer business, i shall be paid for mytrouble in telling you the story." holmes sat down and listened. "it all seems to centre round that bust ofnapoleon which i bought for this very room about four months ago.i picked it up cheap from harding brothers, two doors from the high street station. a great deal of my journalistic work isdone at night, and i often write until the
early morning.so it was to-day. i was sitting in my den, which is at theback of the top of the house, about three o'clock, when i was convinced that i heardsome sounds downstairs. i listened, but they were not repeated, andi concluded that they came from outside. then suddenly, about five minutes later,there came a most horrible yell--the most dreadful sound, mr. holmes, that ever iheard. it will ring in my ears as long as i live. i sat frozen with horror for a minute ortwo. then i seized the poker and wentdownstairs.
when i entered this room i found the windowwide open, and i at once observed that the bust was gone from the mantelpiece. why any burglar should take such a thingpasses my understanding, for it was only a plaster cast and of no real value whatever. "you can see for yourself that anyone goingout through that open window could reach the front doorstep by taking a long stride.this was clearly what the burglar had done, so i went round and opened the door. stepping out into the dark, i nearly fellover a dead man, who was lying there. i ran back for a light and there was thepoor fellow, a great gash in his throat and
the whole place swimming in blood. he lay on his back, his knees drawn up, andhis mouth horribly open. i shall see him in my dreams. i had just time to blow on my police-whistle, and then i must have fainted, for i knew nothing more until i found thepoliceman standing over me in the hall." "well, who was the murdered man?" askedholmes. "there's nothing to show who he was," saidlestrade. "you shall see the body at the mortuary,but we have made nothing of it up to now. he is a tall man, sunburned, very powerful,not more than thirty.
he is poorly dressed, and yet does notappear to be a labourer. a horn-handled clasp knife was lying in apool of blood beside him. whether it was the weapon which did thedeed, or whether it belonged to the dead man, i do not know. there was no name on his clothing, andnothing in his pockets save an apple, some string, a shilling map of london, and aphotograph. here it is." it was evidently taken by a snapshot from asmall camera. it represented an alert, sharp-featuredsimian man, with thick eyebrows and a very
peculiar projection of the lower part ofthe face, like the muzzle of a baboon. "and what became of the bust?" askedholmes, after a careful study of this picture."we had news of it just before you came. it has been found in the front garden of anempty house in campden house road. it was broken into fragments.i am going round now to see it. will you come?" "certainly.i must just take one look round." he examined the carpet and the window."the fellow had either very long legs or was a most active man," said he.
"with an area beneath, it was no mean featto reach that window ledge and open that window.getting back was comparatively simple. are you coming with us to see the remainsof your bust, mr. harker?" the disconsolate journalist had seatedhimself at a writing-table. "i must try and make something of it," saidhe, "though i have no doubt that the first editions of the evening papers are outalready with full details. it's like my luck! you remember when the stand fell atdoncaster? well, i was the only journalist in thestand, and my journal the only one that had
no account of it, for i was too shaken towrite it. and now i'll be too late with a murder doneon my own doorstep." as we left the room, we heard his pentravelling shrilly over the foolscap. the spat where the fragments of the busthad been found was only a few hundred yards away. for the first time our eyes rested uponthis presentment of the great emperor, which seemed to raise such frantic anddestructive hatred in the mind of the unknown. it lay scattered, in splintered shards,upon the grass.
holmes picked up several of them andexamined them carefully. i was convinced, from his intent face andhis purposeful manner, that at last he was upon a clue."well?" asked lestrade. holmes shrugged his shoulders. "we have a long way to go yet," said he."and yet--and yet--well, we have some suggestive facts to act upon. the possession of this trifling bust wasworth more, in the eyes of this strange criminal, than a human life.that is one point. then there is the singular fact that he didnot break it in the house, or immediately
outside the house, if to break it was hissole object." "he was rattled and bustled by meeting thisother fellow. he hardly knew what he was doing.""well, that's likely enough. but i wish to call your attention veryparticularly to the position of this house, in the garden of which the bust wasdestroyed." lestrade looked about him. "it was an empty house, and so he knew thathe would not be disturbed in the garden." "yes, but there is another empty housefarther up the street which he must have passed before he came to this one.
why did he not break it there, since it isevident that every yard that he carried it increased the risk of someone meeting him?""i give it up," said lestrade. holmes pointed to the street lamp above ourheads. "he could see what he was doing here, andhe could not there. that was his reason." "by jove! that's true," said the detective."now that i come to think of it, dr. barnicot's bust was broken not far from hisred lamp. well, mr. holmes, what are we to do withthat fact?" "to remember it--to docket it.we may come on something later which will
bear upon it. what steps do you propose to take now,lestrade?" "the most practical way of getting at it,in my opinion, is to identify the dead man. there should be no difficulty about that. when we have found who he is and who hisassociates are, we should have a good start in learning what he was doing in pittstreet last night, and who it was who met him and killed him on the doorstep of mr.horace harker. don't you think so?""no doubt; and yet it is not quite the way in which i should approach the case."
"what would you do then?""oh, you must not let me influence you in any way.i suggest that you go on your line and i on mine. we can compare notes afterwards, and eachwill supplement the other." "very good," said lestrade."if you are going back to pitt street, you might see mr. horace harker. tell him for me that i have quite made upmy mind, and that it is certain that a dangerous homicidal lunatic, withnapoleonic delusions, was in his house last night.
it will be useful for his article."lestrade stared. "you don't seriously believe that?"holmes smiled. "don't i? well, perhaps i don't.but i am sure that it will interest mr. horace harker and the subscribers of thecentral press syndicate. now, watson, i think that we shall findthat we have a long and rather complex day's work before us. i should be glad, lestrade, if you couldmake it convenient to meet us at baker street at six o'clock this evening.until then i should like to keep this
photograph, found in the dead man's pocket. it is possible that i may have to ask yourcompany and assistance upon a small expedition which will have be undertakento-night, if my chain of reasoning should prove to be correct. until then good-bye and good luck!"sherlock holmes and i walked together to the high street, where we stopped at theshop of harding brothers, whence the bust had been purchased. a young assistant informed us that mr.harding would be absent until afternoon, and that he was himself a newcomer, whocould give us no information.
holmes's face showed his disappointment andannoyance. "well, well, we can't expect to have it allour own way, watson," he said, at last. "we must come back in the afternoon, ifmr. harding will not be here until then. i am, as you have no doubt surmised,endeavouring to trace these busts to their source, in order to find if there is notsomething peculiar which may account for their remarkable fate. let us make for mr. morse hudson, of thekennington road, and see if he can throw any light upon the problem."a drive of an hour brought us to the picture-dealer's establishment.
he was a small, stout man with a red faceand a peppery manner. "yes, sir.on my very counter, sir," said he. "what we pay rates and taxes for i don'tknow, when any ruffian can come in and break one's goods.yes, sir, it was i who sold dr. barnicot his two statues. disgraceful, sir!a nihilist plot--that's what i make it. no one but an anarchist would go aboutbreaking statues. red republicans--that's what i call 'em. who did i get the statues from?i don't see what that has to do with it.
well, if you really want to know, i gotthem from gelder & co., in church street, stepney. they are a well-known house in the trade,and have been this twenty years. how many had i? three--two and one are three--two of dr.barnicot's, and one smashed in broad daylight on my own counter.do i know that photograph? no, i don't. yes, i do, though.why, it's beppo. he was a kind of italian piece-work man,who made himself useful in the shop.
he could carve a bit, and gild and frame,and do odd jobs. the fellow left me last week, and i'veheard nothing of him since. no, i don't know where he came from norwhere he went to. i had nothing against him while he washere. he was gone two days before the bust wassmashed." "well, that's all we could reasonablyexpect from morse hudson," said holmes, as we emerged from the shop. "we have this beppo as a common factor,both in kennington and in kensington, so that is worth a ten-mile drive.
now, watson, let us make for gelder & co.,of stepney, the source and origin of the busts.i shall be surprised if we don't get some help down there." in rapid succession we passed through thefringe of fashionable london, hotel london, theatrical london, literary london,commercial london, and, finally, maritime london, till we came to a riverside city of a hundred thousand souls, where thetenement houses swelter and reek with the outcasts of europe. here, in a broad thoroughfare, once theabode of wealthy city merchants, we found
the sculpture works for which we searched.outside was a considerable yard full of monumental masonry. inside was a large room in which fiftyworkers were carving or moulding. the manager, a big blond german, receivedus civilly and gave a clear answer to all holmes's questions. a reference to his books showed thathundreds of casts had been taken from a marble copy of devine's head of napoleon,but that the three which had been sent to morse hudson a year or so before had been half of a batch of six, the other threebeing sent to harding brothers, of
kensington.there was no reason why those six should be different from any of the other casts. he could suggest no possible cause whyanyone should wish to destroy them--in fact, he laughed at the idea.their wholesale price was six shillings, but the retailer would get twelve or more. the cast was taken in two moulds from eachside of the face, and then these two profiles of plaster of paris were joinedtogether to make the complete bust. the work was usually done by italians, inthe room we were in. when finished, the busts were put on atable in the passage to dry, and afterwards
stored. that was all he could tell us.but the production of the photograph had a remarkable effect upon the manager.his face flushed with anger, and his brows knotted over his blue teutonic eyes. "ah, the rascal!" he cried."yes, indeed, i know him very well. this has always been a respectableestablishment, and the only time that we have ever had the police in it was overthis very fellow. it was more than a year ago now. he knifed another italian in the street,and then he came to the works with the
police on his heels, and he was taken here.beppo was his name--his second name i never knew. serve me right for engaging a man with sucha face. but he was a good workman--one of thebest." "what did he get?" "the man lived and he got off with a year.i have no doubt he is out now, but he has not dared to show his nose here.we have a cousin of his here, and i daresay he could tell you where he is." "no, no," cried holmes, "not a word to thecousin--not a word, i beg of you.
the matter is very important, and thefarther i go with it, the more important it seems to grow. when you referred in your ledger to thesale of those casts i observed that the date was june 3rd of last year.could you give me the date when beppo was arrested?" "i could tell you roughly by the pay-list,"the manager answered. "yes," he continued, after some turningover of pages, "he was paid last on may 20th." "thank you," said holmes."i don't think that i need intrude upon
your time and patience any more." with a last word of caution that he shouldsay nothing as to our researches, we turned our faces westward once more. the afternoon was far advanced before wewere able to snatch a hasty luncheon at a restaurant.a news-bill at the entrance announced "kensington outrage. murder by a madman," and the contents ofthe paper showed that mr. horace harker had got his account into print after all. two columns were occupied with a highlysensational and flowery rendering of the
whole incident.holmes propped it against the cruet-stand and read it while he ate. once or twice he chuckled."this is all right, watson," said he. "listen to this: "it is satisfactory to know that there canbe no difference of opinion upon this case, since mr. lestrade, one of the mostexperienced members of the official force, and mr. sherlock holmes, the well known consulting expert, have each come to theconclusion that the grotesque series of incidents, which have ended in so tragic afashion, arise from lunacy rather than from
deliberate crime. no explanation save mental aberration cancover the facts. "the press, watson, is a most valuableinstitution, if you only know how to use and now, if you have quite finished, wewill hark back to kensington and see what the manager of harding brothers has to sayon the matter." the founder of that great emporium provedto be a brisk, crisp little person, very dapper and quick, with a clear head and aready tongue. "yes, sir, i have already read the accountin the evening papers. mr. horace harker is a customer of ours.we supplied him with the bust some months
ago. we ordered three busts of that sort fromgelder & co., of stepney. they are all sold now.to whom? oh, i daresay by consulting our sales bookwe could very easily tell you. yes, we have the entries here. one to mr. harker you see, and one to mr.josiah brown, of laburnum lodge, laburnum vale, chiswick, and one to mr. sandeford,of lower grove road, reading. no, i have never seen this face which youshow me in the photograph. you would hardly forget it, would you, sir,for i've seldom seen an uglier.
have we any italians on the staff? yes, sir, we have several among ourworkpeople and cleaners. i daresay they might get a peep at thatsales book if they wanted to. there is no particular reason for keeping awatch upon that book. well, well, it's a very strange business,and i hope that you will let me know if anything comes of your inquiries." holmes had taken several notes during mr.harding's evidence, and i could see that he was thoroughly satisfied by the turn whichaffairs were taking. he made no remark, however, save that,unless we hurried, we should be late for
our appointment with lestrade. sure enough, when we reached baker streetthe detective was already there, and we found him pacing up and down in a fever ofimpatience. his look of importance showed that hisday's work had not been in vain. "well?" he asked."what luck, mr. holmes?" "we have had a very busy day, and notentirely a wasted one," my friend explained."we have seen both the retailers and also the wholesale manufacturers. i can trace each of the busts now from thebeginning."
"the busts," cried lestrade. "well, well, you have your own methods,mr. sherlock holmes, and it is not for me to say a word against them, but i think ihave done a better day's work than you. i have identified the dead man." "you don't say so?""and found a cause for the crime." "splendid!""we have an inspector who makes a specialty of saffron hill and the italian quarter. well, this dead man had some catholicemblem round his neck, and that, along with his colour, made me think he was from thesouth.
inspector hill knew him the moment hecaught sight of him. his name is pietro venucci, from naples,and he is one of the greatest cut-throats in london. he is connected with the mafia, which, asyou know, is a secret political society, enforcing its decrees by murder.now, you see how the affair begins to clear up. the other fellow is probably an italianalso, and a member of the mafia. he has broken the rules in some fashion.pietro is set upon his track. probably the photograph we found in hispocket is the man himself, so that he may
not knife the wrong person. he dogs the fellow, he sees him enter ahouse, he waits outside for him, and in the scuffle he receives his own death-wound.how is that, mr. sherlock holmes?" holmes clapped his hands approvingly. "excellent, lestrade, excellent!" he cried."but i didn't quite follow your explanation of the destruction of the busts.""the busts! you never can get those busts out of yourhead. after all, that is nothing; petty larceny,six months at the most. it is the murder that we are reallyinvestigating, and i tell you that i am
gathering all the threads into my hands.""and the next stage?" "is a very simple one. i shall go down with hill to the italianquarter, find the man whose photograph we have got, and arrest him on the charge ofmurder. will you come with us?" "i think not.i fancy we can attain our end in a simpler way. i can't say for certain, because it alldepends--well, it all depends upon a factor which is completely outside our control.
but i have great hopes--in fact, thebetting is exactly two to one--that if you will come with us to-night i shall be ableto help you to lay him by the heels." "in the italian quarter?" "no, i fancy chiswick is an address whichis more likely to find him. if you will come with me to chiswick to-night, lestrade, i'll promise to go to the italian quarter with you to-morrow, and noharm will be done by the delay. and now i think that a few hours' sleepwould do us all good, for i do not propose to leave before eleven o'clock, and it isunlikely that we shall be back before morning.
you'll dine with us, lestrade, and then youare welcome to the sofa until it is time for us to start. in the meantime, watson, i should be gladif you would ring for an express messenger, for i have a letter to send and it isimportant that it should go at once." holmes spent the evening in rummaging amongthe files of the old daily papers with which one of our lumber-rooms was packed. when at last he descended, it was withtriumph in his eyes, but he said nothing to either of us as to the result of hisresearches. for my own part, i had followed step bystep the methods by which he had traced the
various windings of this complex case, and,though i could not yet perceive the goal which we would reach, i understood clearly that holmes expected this grotesquecriminal to make an attempt upon the two remaining busts, one of which, iremembered, was at chiswick. no doubt the object of our journey was tocatch him in the very act, and i could not but admire the cunning with which my friendhad inserted a wrong clue in the evening paper, so as to give the fellow the idea that he could continue his scheme withimpunity. i was not surprised when holmes suggestedthat i should take my revolver with me.
he had himself picked up the loadedhunting-crop, which was his favourite weapon. a four-wheeler was at the door at eleven,and in it we drove to a spot at the other side of hammersmith bridge.here the cabman was directed to wait. a short walk brought us to a secluded roadfringed with pleasant houses, each standing in its own grounds. in the light of a street lamp we read"laburnum villa" upon the gate-post of one of them. the occupants had evidently retired torest, for all was dark save for a fanlight
over the hall door, which shed a singleblurred circle on to the garden path. the wooden fence which separated thegrounds from the road threw a dense black shadow upon the inner side, and here it wasthat we crouched. "i fear that you'll have a long wait,"holmes whispered. "we may thank our stars that it is notraining. i don't think we can even venture to smoketo pass the time. however, it's a two to one chance that weget something to pay us for our trouble." it proved, however, that our vigil was notto be so long as holmes had led us to fear, and it ended in a very sudden and singularfashion.
in an instant, without the least sound towarn us of his coming, the garden gate swung open, and a lithe, dark figure, asswift and active as an ape, rushed up the garden path. we saw it whisk past the light thrown fromover the door and disappear against the black shadow of the house. there was a long pause, during which weheld our breath, and then a very gentle creaking sound came to our ears.the window was being opened. the noise ceased, and again there was along silence. the fellow was making his way into thehouse.
we saw the sudden flash of a dark lanterninside the room. what he sought was evidently not there, foragain we saw the flash through another blind, and then through another. "let us get to the open window.we will nab him as he climbs out," lestrade whispered.but before we could move, the man had emerged again. as he came out into the glimmering patch oflight, we saw that he carried something white under his arm.he looked stealthily all round him. the silence of the deserted streetreassured him.
turning his back upon us he laid down hisburden, and the next instant there was the sound of a sharp tap, followed by a clatterand rattle. the man was so intent upon what he wasdoing that he never heard our steps as we stole across the grass plot. with the bound of a tiger holmes was on hisback, and an instant later lestrade and i had him by either wrist, and the handcuffshad been fastened. as we turned him over i saw a hideous,sallow face, with writhing, furious features, glaring up at us, and i knew thatit was indeed the man of the photograph whom we had secured.
but it was not our prisoner to whom holmeswas giving his attention. squatted on the doorstep, he was engaged inmost carefully examining that which the man had brought from the house. it was a bust of napoleon, like the onewhich we had seen that morning, and it had been broken into similar fragments. carefully holmes held each separate shardto the light, but in no way did it differ from any other shattered piece of plaster. he had just completed his examination whenthe hall lights flew up, the door opened, and the owner of the house, a jovial,rotund figure in shirt and trousers,
presented himself. " mr. josiah brown, i suppose?" saidholmes. "yes, sir; and you, no doubt, are mr.sherlock holmes? i had the note which you sent by theexpress messenger, and i did exactly what you told me.we locked every door on the inside and awaited developments. well, i'm very glad to see that you havegot the rascal. i hope, gentlemen, that you will come inand have some refreshment." however, lestrade was anxious to get hisman into safe quarters, so within a few
minutes our cab had been summoned and wewere all four upon our way to london. not a word would our captive say, but heglared at us from the shadow of his matted hair, and once, when my hand seemed withinhis reach, he snapped at it like a hungry wolf. we stayed long enough at the police-stationto learn that a search of his clothing revealed nothing save a few shillings and along sheath knife, the handle of which bore copious traces of recent blood. "that's all right," said lestrade, as weparted. "hill knows all these gentry, and he willgive a name to him.
you'll find that my theory of the mafiawill work out all right. but i'm sure i am exceedingly obliged toyou, mr. holmes, for the workmanlike way in which you laid hands upon him. i don't quite understand it all yet.""i fear it is rather too late an hour for explanations," said holmes. "besides, there are one or two detailswhich are not finished off, and it is one of those cases which are worth working outto the very end. if you will come round once more to myrooms at six o'clock to-morrow, i think i shall be able to show you that even now youhave not grasped the entire meaning of this
business, which presents some features which make it absolutely original in thehistory of crime. if ever i permit you to chronicle any moreof my little problems, watson, i foresee that you will enliven your pages by anaccount of the singular adventure of the napoleonic busts." when we met again next evening, lestradewas furnished with much information concerning our prisoner.his name, it appeared, was beppo, second name unknown. he was a well-known ne'er-do-well among theitalian colony.
he had once been a skilful sculptor and hadearned an honest living, but he had taken to evil courses and had twice already beenin jail--once for a petty theft, and once, as we had already heard, for stabbing afellow-countryman. he could talk english perfectly well. his reasons for destroying the busts werestill unknown, and he refused to answer any questions upon the subject, but the policehad discovered that these same busts might very well have been made by his own hands, since he was engaged in this class of workat the establishment of gelder & co. to all this information, much of which wealready knew, holmes listened with polite
attention, but i, who knew him so well,could clearly see that his thoughts were elsewhere, and i detected a mixture of mingled uneasiness and expectation beneaththat mask which he was wont to assume. at last he started in his chair, and hiseyes brightened. there had been a ring at the bell. a minute later we heard steps upon thestairs, and an elderly red-faced man with grizzled side-whiskers was ushered in. in his right hand he carried an old-fashioned carpet-bag, which he placed upon the table."is mr. sherlock holmes here?"
my friend bowed and smiled. " mr. sandeford, of reading, i suppose?"said he. "yes, sir, i fear that i am a little late,but the trains were awkward. you wrote to me about a bust that is in mypossession." "exactly.""i have your letter here. you said, 'i desire to possess a copy ofdevine's napoleon, and am prepared to pay you ten pounds for the one which is in yourpossession.' is that right?" "certainly.""i was very much surprised at your letter,
for i could not imagine how you knew that iowned such a thing." "of course you must have been surprised,but the explanation is very simple. mr. harding, of harding brothers, saidthat they had sold you their last copy, and he gave me your address." "oh, that was it, was it?did he tell you what i paid for it?" "no, he did not.""well, i am an honest man, though not a very rich one. i only gave fifteen shillings for the bust,and i think you ought to know that before i take ten pounds from you."i am sure the scruple does you honour,
mr. sandeford. but i have named that price, so i intend tostick to it." "well, it is very handsome of you, mr.holmes. i brought the bust up with me, as you askedme to do. here it is!" he opened his bag, and at last we sawplaced upon our table a complete specimen of that bust which we had already seen morethan once in fragments. holmes took a paper from his pocket andlaid a ten-pound note upon the table. "you will kindly sign that paper, mr.sandeford, in the presence of these
witnesses. it is simply to say that you transfer everypossible right that you ever had in the bust to me. i am a methodical man, you see, and younever know what turn events might take afterwards.thank you, mr. sandeford; here is your money, and i wish you a very good evening." when our visitor had disappeared, sherlockholmes's movements were such as to rivet our attention.he began by taking a clean white cloth from a drawer and laying it over the table.
then he placed his newly acquired bust inthe centre of the cloth. finally, he picked up his hunting-crop andstruck napoleon a sharp blow on the top of the head. the figure broke into fragments, and holmesbent eagerly over the shattered remains. next instant, with a loud shout of triumphhe held up one splinter, in which a round, dark object was fixed like a plum in apudding. "gentlemen," he cried, "let me introduceyou to the famous black pearl of the borgias." lestrade and i sat silent for a moment, andthen, with a spontaneous impulse, we both
broke at clapping, as at the well-wroughtcrisis of a play. a flush of colour sprang to holmes's palecheeks, and he bowed to us like the master dramatist who receives the homage of hisaudience. it was at such moments that for an instanthe ceased to be a reasoning machine, and betrayed his human love for admiration andapplause. the same singularly proud and reservednature which turned away with disdain from popular notoriety was capable of beingmoved to its depths by spontaneous wonder and praise from a friend. "yes, gentlemen," said he, "it is the mostfamous pearl now existing in the world, and
it has been my good fortune, by a connectedchain of inductive reasoning, to trace it from the prince of colonna's bedroom at the dacre hotel, where it was lost, to theinterior of this, the last of the six busts of napoleon which were manufactured bygelder & co., of stepney. you will remember, lestrade, the sensationcaused by the disappearance of this valuable jewel and the vain efforts of thelondon police to recover it. i was myself consulted upon the case, but iwas unable to throw any light upon it. suspicion fell upon the maid of theprincess, who was an italian, and it was proved that she had a brother in london,but we failed to trace any connection
between them. the maid's name was lucretia venucci, andthere is no doubt in my mind that this pietro who was murdered two nights ago wasthe brother. i have been looking up the dates in the oldfiles of the paper, and i find that the disappearance of the pearl was exactly twodays before the arrest of beppo, for some crime of violence--an event which took place in the factory of gelder & co., atthe very moment when these busts were being made. now you clearly see the sequence of events,though you see them, of course, in the
inverse order to the way in which theypresented themselves to me. beppo had the pearl in his possession. he may have stolen it from pietro, he mayhave been pietro's confederate, he may have been the go-between of pietro and hissister. it is of no consequence to us which is thecorrect solution. "the main fact is that he had the pearl,and at that moment, when it was on his person, he was pursued by the police. he made for the factory in which he worked,and he knew that he had only a few minutes in which to conceal this enormouslyvaluable prize, which would otherwise be
found on him when he was searched. six plaster casts of napoleon were dryingin the passage. one of them was still soft. in an instant beppo, a skilful workman,made a small hole in the wet plaster, dropped in the pearl, and with a fewtouches covered over the aperture once more. it was an admirable hiding-place.no one could possibly find it. but beppo was condemned to a year'simprisonment, and in the meanwhile his six busts were scattered over london.
he could not tell which contained histreasure. only by breaking them could he see. even shaking would tell him nothing, for asthe plaster was wet it was probable that the pearl would adhere to it--as, in fact,it has done. beppo did not despair, and he conducted hissearch with considerable ingenuity and perseverance. through a cousin who works with gelder, hefound out the retail firms who had bought the busts. he managed to find employment with morsehudson, and in that way tracked down three
of them.the pearl was not there. then, with the help of some italianemployee, he succeeded in finding out where the other three busts had gone.the first was at harker's. there he was dogged by his confederate, whoheld beppo responsible for the loss of the pearl, and he stabbed him in the scufflewhich followed." "if he was his confederate, why should hecarry his photograph?" i asked."as a means of tracing him, if he wished to inquire about him from any third person. that was the obvious reason.well, after the murder i calculated that
beppo would probably hurry rather thandelay his movements. he would fear that the police would readhis secret, and so he hastened on before they should get ahead of him.of course, i could not say that he had not found the pearl in harker's bust. i had not even concluded for certain thatit was the pearl, but it was evident to me that he was looking for something, since hecarried the bust past the other houses in order to break it in the garden which had alamp overlooking it. since harker's bust was one in three, thechances were exactly as i told you--two to one against the pearl being inside it.
there remained two busts, and it wasobvious that he would go for the london one first. i warned the inmates of the house, so as toavoid a second tragedy, and we went down, with the happiest results. by that time, of course, i knew for certainthat it was the borgia pearl that we were after.the name of the murdered man linked the one event with the other. there only remained a single bust--thereading one--and the pearl must be there. i bought it in your presence from theowner--and there it lies."
we sat in silence for a moment. "well," said lestrade, "i've seen youhandle a good many cases, mr. holmes, but i don't know that i ever knew a moreworkmanlike one than that. we're not jealous of you at scotland yard. no, sir, we are very proud of you, and ifyou come down to-morrow, there's not a man, from the oldest inspector to the youngestconstable, who wouldn't be glad to shake you by the hand." "thank you!" said holmes."thank you!" and as he turned away, it seemed to me that he was more nearly movedby the softer human emotions than i had
ever seen him. a moment later he was the cold andpractical thinker once more. "put the pearl in the safe, watson," saidhe, "and get out the papers of the conk- singleton forgery case. good-bye, lestrade.if any little problem comes your way, i shall be happy, if i can, to give you ahint or two as to its solution."