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The Return of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle

Part 4 out of 7

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farther side. Stanley Hopkins drew the key from his pocket,
and had stooped to the lock, when he paused with a look of
attention and surprise upon his face.

"Someone has been tampering with it," he said.

There could be no doubt of the fact. The woodwork was cut and
the scratches showed white through the paint, as if they had
been that instant done. Holmes had been examining the window.

"Someone has tried to force this also. Whoever it was has failed
to make his way in. He must have been a very poor burglar."

"This is a most extraordinary thing," said the inspector;
"I could swear that these marks were not here yesterday evening."

"Some curious person from the village, perhaps," I suggested.

"Very unlikely. Few of them would dare to set foot in the
grounds, far less try to force their way into the cabin.
What do you think of it, Mr. Holmes?"

"I think that fortune is very kind to us."

"You mean that the person will come again?"

"It is very probable. He came expecting to find the door open.
He tried to get in with the blade of a very small penknife.
He could not manage it. What would he do?"

"Come again next night with a more useful tool."

"So I should say. It will be our fault if we are not there
to receive him. Meanwhile, let me see the inside of the cabin."

The traces of the tragedy had been removed, but the furniture
within the little room still stood as it had been on the night
of the crime. For two hours, with most intense concentration,
Holmes examined every object in turn, but his face showed that
his quest was not a successful one. Once only he paused in his
patient investigation.

"Have you taken anything off this shelf, Hopkins?"

"No; I have moved nothing."

"Something has been taken. There is less dust in this corner of
the shelf than elsewhere. It may have been a book lying on its
side. It may have been a box. Well, well, I can do nothing
more. Let us walk in these beautiful woods, Watson, and give a
few hours to the birds and the flowers. We shall meet you here
later, Hopkins, and see if we can come to closer quarters with
the gentleman who has paid this visit in the night."

It was past eleven o'clock when we formed our little ambuscade.
Hopkins was for leaving the door of the hut open, but Holmes
was of the opinion that this would rouse the suspicions of the
stranger. The lock was a perfectly simple one, and only a
strong blade was needed to push it back. Holmes also suggested
that we should wait, not inside the hut, but outside it among
the bushes which grew round the farther window. In this way we
should be able to watch our man if he struck a light, and see
what his object was in this stealthy nocturnal visit.

It was a long and melancholy vigil, and yet brought with it
something of the thrill which the hunter feels when he lies
beside the water pool and waits for the coming of the thirsty
beast of prey. What savage creature was it which might steal
upon us out of the darkness? Was it a fierce tiger of crime,
which could only be taken fighting hard with flashing fang and
claw, or would it prove to be some skulking jackal, dangerous
only to the weak and unguarded?

In absolute silence we crouched amongst the bushes, waiting
for whatever might come. At first the steps of a few belated
villagers, or the sound of voices from the village, lightened
our vigil; but one by one these interruptions died away and an
absolute stillness fell upon us, save for the chimes of the
distant church, which told us of the progress of the night,
and for the rustle and whisper of a fine rain falling amid the
foliage which roofed us in.

Half-past two had chimed, and it was the darkest hour which
precedes the dawn, when we all started as a low but sharp click
came from the direction of the gate. Someone had entered the
drive. Again there was a long silence, and I had begun to fear
that it was a false alarm, when a stealthy step was heard upon
the other side of the hut, and a moment later a metallic
scraping and clinking. The man was trying to force the lock!
This time his skill was greater or his tool was better,
for there was a sudden snap and the creak of the hinges.
Then a match was struck, and next instant the steady light from
a candle filled the interior of the hut. Through the gauze
curtain our eyes were all riveted upon the scene within.

The nocturnal visitor was a young man, frail and thin, with a
black moustache which intensified the deadly pallor of his face.
He could not have been much above twenty years of age. I have
never seen any human being who appeared to be in such a pitiable
fright, for his teeth were visibly chattering and he was shaking
in every limb. He was dressed like a gentleman, in Norfolk
jacket and knickerbockers, with a cloth cap upon his head.
We watched him staring round with frightened eyes. Then he laid
the candle-end upon the table and disappeared from our view into
one of the corners. He returned with a large book, one of the
log-books which formed a line upon the shelves. Leaning on the
table he rapidly turned over the leaves of this volume until he
came to the entry which he sought. Then, with an angry gesture
of his clenched hand, he closed the book, replaced it in the
corner, and put out the light. He had hardly turned to leave
the hut when Hopkins's hand was on the fellow's collar, and I
heard his loud gasp of terror as he understood that he was
taken. The candle was re-lit, and there was our wretched
captive shivering and cowering in the grasp of the detective.
He sank down upon the sea-chest, and looked helplessly from one
of us to the other.

"Now, my fine fellow," said Stanley Hopkins, "who are you,
and what do you want here?"

The man pulled himself together and faced us with an effort
at self-composure.

"You are detectives, I suppose?" said he. "You imagine I am
connected with the death of Captain Peter Carey. I assure you
that I am innocent."

"We'll see about that," said Hopkins.
"First of all, what is your name?"

"It is John Hopley Neligan."

I saw Holmes and Hopkins exchange a quick glance.

"What are you doing here?"

"Can I speak confidentially?"

"No, certainly not."

"Why should I tell you?"

"If you have no answer it may go badly with you at the trial."

The young man winced.

"Well, I will tell you," he said. "Why should I not? And yet
I hate to think of this old scandal gaining a new lease of life.
Did you ever hear of Dawson and Neligan?"

I could see from Hopkins's face that he never had; but Holmes
was keenly interested.

"You mean the West-country bankers," said he. "They failed
for a million, ruined half the county families of Cornwall,
and Neligan 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 Carey
pinned against the wall with one of his own harpoons. We all
listened intently to the young man's words.

"It was my father who was really concerned. Dawson had retired.
I was only ten years of age at the time, but I was old enough to
feel the shame and horror of it all. It has always been said
that my father stole all the securities and fled. It is not
true. It was his belief that if he were given time in which to
realize them all would be well and every creditor paid in full.
He started in his little yacht for Norway just before the
warrant was issued for his arrest. I can remember that last
night when he bade farewell to my mother. He left us a list of
the securities he was taking, and he swore that he would come
back with his honour cleared, and that none who had trusted him
would suffer. Well, no word was ever heard from him again.
Both the yacht and he vanished utterly. We believed, my mother
and I, that he and it, with the securities that he had taken
with him, were at the bottom of the sea. We had a faithful
friend, however, who is a business man, and it was he who
discovered some time ago that some of the securities which my
father had with him have reappeared on the London market.
You can imagine our amazement. I spent months in trying to
trace them, and at last, after many doublings and difficulties,
I discovered that the original seller had been Captain Peter
Carey, the owner of this hut.

"Naturally, I made some inquiries about the man. I found that
he had been in command of a whaler which was due to return from
the Arctic seas at the very time when my father was crossing to
Norway. The autumn of that year was a stormy one, and there was
a long succession of southerly gales. My father's yacht may
well have been blown to the north, and there met by Captain
Peter Carey's ship. If that were so, what had become of my
father? In any case, if I could prove from Peter Carey's
evidence how these securities came on the market it would be a
proof that my father had not sold them, and that he had no view
to personal profit when he took them.

"I came down to Sussex with the intention of seeing the captain,
but it was at this moment that his terrible death occurred.
I read at the inquest a description of his cabin, in which it
stated that the old log-books of his vessel were preserved in it.
It struck me that if I could see what occurred in the month
of August, 1883, on board the SEA UNICORN, I might settle the
mystery of my father's fate. I tried last night to get at these
log-books, but was unable to open the door. To-night I tried
again, and succeeded; but I find that the pages which deal with
that month have been torn from the book. It was at that moment
I found myself a prisoner in your hands."

"Is that all?" asked Hopkins.

"Yes, that is all." His eyes shifted as he said it.

"You have nothing else to tell us?"

He hesitated.

"No; there is nothing."

"You have not been here before last night?"

"No."

"Then how do you account for THAT?" cried Hopkins, as he held up
the damning note-book, with the initials of our prisoner on the
first leaf and the blood-stain on the cover.

The wretched man collapsed. He sank his face in his hands and
trembled all over.

"Where did you get it?" he groaned. "I did not know.
I thought I had lost it at the hotel."

"That is enough," said Hopkins, sternly. "Whatever else you
have to say you must say in court. You will walk down with me
now to the police-station. Well, Mr. Holmes, I am very much
obliged to you and to your friend for coming down to help me.
As it turns out your presence was unnecessary, and I would have
brought the case to this successful issue without you; but none
the less I am very grateful. Rooms have been reserved for you
at the Brambletye Hotel, so we can all walk down to the village
together."

"Well, Watson, what do you think of it?" asked Holmes,
as we travelled back next morning.

"I can see that you are not satisfied."

"Oh, yes, my dear Watson, I am perfectly satisfied. At the same
time Stanley Hopkins's methods do not commend themselves to me.
I am disappointed in Stanley Hopkins. I had hoped for better
things from him. One should always look for a possible
alternative and provide against it. It is the first rule of
criminal 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, and burst out into
a triumphant chuckle of laughter.

"Excellent, Watson. The alternative develops. Have you
telegraph forms? Just write a couple of messages for me:
`Sumner, Shipping Agent, Ratcliff Highway. Send three men on,
to arrive ten to-morrow morning. -- Basil.' That's my name in
those parts. The other is: `Inspector Stanley Hopkins, 46,
Lord Street, Brixton. Come breakfast to-morrow at nine-thirty.
Important. Wire if unable to come. -- Sherlock Holmes.'
There, Watson, this infernal case has haunted me for ten days.
I hereby banish it completely from my presence. To-morrow
I trust that we shall hear the last of it for ever."

Sharp at the hour named Inspector Stanley Hopkins appeared,
and we sat down together to the excellent breakfast which
Mrs. Hudson had prepared. The young detective was in high
spirits at his success.

"You really think that your solution must be correct?" asked Holmes.

"I could not imagine a more complete case."

"It did not seem to me conclusive."

"You astonish me, Mr. Holmes. What more could one ask for?"

"Does your explanation cover every point?"

"Undoubtedly. I find that young Neligan arrived at the
Brambletye Hotel on the very day of the crime. He came on
the pretence of playing golf. His room was on the ground-floor,
and he could get out when he liked. That very night he went down
to Woodman's Lee, saw Peter Carey at the hut, quarrelled with him,
and killed him with the harpoon. Then, horrified by what he had
done, he fled out of the hut, dropping the note-book which he
had brought with him in order to question Peter Carey about
these different securities. You may have observed that some of
them were marked with ticks, and the others -- the great
majority -- were not. Those which are ticked have been traced
on the London market; but the others presumably were still in
the possession of Carey, and young Neligan, according to his own
account, was anxious to recover them in order to do the right
thing by his father's creditors. After his flight he did not
dare to approach the hut again for some time; but at last he
forced himself to do so in order to obtain the information
which he needed. Surely that is all simple and obvious?"

Holmes smiled and shook his head.

"It seems to me to have only one drawback, Hopkins, and that
is that it is intrinsically impossible. Have you tried to drive
a harpoon through a body? No? Tut, tut, my dear sir, you must
really pay attention to these details. My friend Watson could
tell you that I spent a whole morning in that exercise.
It is no easy matter, and requires a strong and practised arm.
But this blow was delivered with such violence that the head of
the weapon sank deep into the wall. Do you imagine that this
anaemic youth was capable of so frightful an assault? Is he the
man who hobnobbed in rum and water with Black Peter in the dead
of the night? Was it his profile that was seen on the blind two
nights before? No, no, Hopkins; it is another and a more
formidable person for whom we must seek."

The detective's face had grown longer and longer during Holmes's
speech. His hopes and his ambitions were all crumbling about him.
But he would not abandon his position without a struggle.

"You can't deny that Neligan was present that night, Mr. Holmes.
The book will prove that. I fancy that I have evidence enough
to satisfy a jury, even if you are able to pick a hole in it.
Besides, Mr. Holmes, I have laid my hand upon MY man. As to
this terrible person of yours, where is he?"

"I rather fancy that he is on the stair," said Holmes, serenely.
"I think, Watson, that you would do well to put that revolver
where you can reach it." He rose, and laid a written paper
upon a side-table. "Now we are ready," said he.

There had been some talking in gruff voices outside, and now
Mrs. Hudson opened the door to say that there were three men
inquiring for Captain Basil.

"Show them in one by one," said Holmes.

The first who entered was a little ribston-pippin of a man,
with ruddy cheeks and fluffy white side-whiskers. Holmes had
drawn a letter from his pocket.

"What name?" he asked.

"James Lancaster."

"I am sorry, Lancaster, but the berth is full. Here is half a
sovereign for your trouble. Just step into this room and wait
there for a few minutes."

The second man was a long, dried-up creature, with lank hair and
sallow cheeks. His name was Hugh Pattins. He also received his
dismissal, his half-sovereign, and the order to wait.

The third applicant was a man of remarkable appearance.
A fierce bull-dog face was framed in a tangle of hair and beard,
and two bold dark eyes gleamed behind the cover of thick, tufted,
overhung eyebrows. He saluted and stood sailor-fashion, turning
his cap round in his hands.

"Your name?" asked Holmes.

"Patrick Cairns."

"Harpooner?"

"Yes, sir. Twenty-six voyages."

"Dundee, I suppose?"

"Yes, sir."

"And ready to start with an exploring ship?"

"Yes, sir."

"What wages?"

"Eight pounds a month."

"Could you start at once?"

"As soon as I get my kit."

"Have you your papers?"

"Yes, sir." He took a sheaf of worn and greasy forms from
his pocket. Holmes glanced over them and returned them.

"You are just the man I want," said he. "Here's the agreement
on the side-table. If you sign it the whole matter will be settled."

The seaman lurched across the room and took up the pen.

"Shall I sign here?" he asked, stooping over the table.

Holmes leaned over his shoulder and passed both hands over his neck.

"This will do," said he.

I heard a click of steel and a bellow like an enraged bull.
The next instant Holmes and the seaman were rolling on the
ground together. He was a man of such gigantic strength that,
even with the handcuffs which Holmes had so deftly fastened upon
his wrists, he would have very quickly overpowered my friend had
Hopkins and I not rushed to his rescue. Only when I pressed the
cold muzzle of the revolver to his temple did he at last
understand that resistance was vain. We lashed his ankles with
cord and rose breathless from the struggle.

"I must really apologize, Hopkins," said Sherlock Holmes;
"I fear that the scrambled eggs are cold. However, you will
enjoy the rest of your breakfast all the better, will you not,
for the thought that you have brought your case to a triumphant
conclusion."

Stanley Hopkins was speechless with amazement.

"I don't know what to say, Mr. Holmes," he blurted out at last,
with a very red face. "It seems to me that I have been making
a fool of myself from the beginning. I understand now, what I
should never have forgotten, that I am the pupil and you are the
master. Even now I see what you have done, but I don't know how
you did it, or what it signifies."

"Well, well," said Holmes, good-humouredly. "We all learn by
experience, and your lesson this time is that you should never
lose sight of the alternative. You were so absorbed in young
Neligan that you could not spare a thought to Patrick Cairns,
the true murderer of Peter Carey."

The hoarse voice of the seaman broke in on our conversation.

"See here, mister," said he, "I make no complaint of
being man-handled in this fashion, but I would have you call
things by their right names. You say I murdered Peter Carey;
I say I KILLED Peter Carey, and there's all the difference.
Maybe you don't believe what I say. Maybe you think I am just
slinging you a yarn."

"Not at all," said Holmes. "Let us hear what you have to say."

"It's soon told, and, by the Lord, every word of it is truth.
I knew Black Peter, and when he pulled out his knife I whipped
a harpoon through him sharp, for I knew that it was him or me.
That's how he died. You can call it murder. Anyhow, I'd as
soon die with a rope round my neck as with Black Peter's knife
in my 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 speak easy. It was in '83 that it happened --
August of that year. Peter Carey was master of the SEA UNICORN,
and I was spare harpooner. We were coming out of the ice-pack
on our way home, with head winds and a week's southerly gale,
when we picked up a little craft that had been blown north.
There was one man on her -- a landsman. The crew had thought
she would founder, and had made for the Norwegian coast in the
dinghy. I guess they were all drowned. Well, we took him on
board, this man, and he and the skipper had some long talks in
the cabin. All the baggage we took off with him was one tin box.
So far as I know, the man's name was never mentioned, and on the
second night he disappeared as if he had never been. It was
given out that he had either thrown himself overboard or fallen
overboard in the heavy weather that we were having. Only one
man knew what had happened to him, and that was me, for with my
own eyes I saw the skipper tip up his heels and put him over the
rail in the middle watch of a dark night, two days before we
sighted the Shetland lights.

"Well, I kept my knowledge to
myself and waited to see what would come of it. When we got
back to Scotland it was easily hushed up, and nobody asked any
questions. A stranger died by an accident, and it was nobody's
business to inquire. Shortly after Peter Carey gave up the sea,
and it was long years before I could find where he was.
I guessed that he had done the deed for the sake of what was in
that tin box, and that he could afford now to pay me well for
keeping my mouth shut.

"I found out where he was through a sailor man that had met him
in London, and down I went to squeeze him. The first night he
was reasonable enough, and was ready to give me what would make
me free of the sea for life. We were to fix it all two nights
later. When I came I found him three parts drunk and in a vile
temper. We sat down and we drank and we yarned about old times,
but the more he drank the less I liked the look on his face.
I spotted that harpoon upon the wall, and I thought I might
need it before I was through. Then at last he broke out at me,
spitting and cursing, with murder in his eyes and a great
clasp-knife in his hand. He had not time to get it from the
sheath before I had the harpoon through him. Heavens! what
a yell he gave; and his face gets between me and my sleep!
I stood there, with his blood splashing round me, and I waited
for a bit; but all was quiet, so I took heart once more.
I looked round, and there was the tin box on a shelf. I had as
much right to it as Peter Carey, anyhow, so I took it with me and
left the hut. Like a fool I left my baccy-pouch upon the table.

"Now I'll tell you the queerest part of the whole story.
I had hardly got outside the hut when I heard someone coming,
and I hid among the bushes. A man came slinking along,
went into the hut, gave a cry as if he had seen a ghost,
and legged it as hard as he could run until he was out of sight.
Who he was or what he wanted is more than I can tell.
For my part I walked ten miles, got a train at Tunbridge Wells,
and so reached London, and no one the wiser.

"Well, when I came to examine the box I found there was no money
in it, and nothing but papers that I would not dare to sell.
I had lost my hold on Black Peter, and was stranded in London
without a shilling. There was only my trade left. I saw these
advertisements about harpooners and high wages, so I went to
the shipping agents, and they sent me here. That's all I know,
and I say again that if I killed Black Peter the law should give
me thanks, for I saved them the price of a hempen rope."

"A very clear statement," said Holmes, rising and lighting
his pipe. "I think, Hopkins, that you should lose no time
in conveying your prisoner to a place of safety. This room
is not well adapted for a cell, and Mr. Patrick Cairns occupies
too large a proportion of our carpet."

"Mr. Holmes," said Hopkins, "I do not know how to express
my gratitude. Even now I do not understand how you attained
this result."

"Simply by having the good fortune to get the right clue from
the beginning. It is very possible if I had known about this
note-book it might have led away my thoughts, as it did yours.
But all I heard pointed in the one direction. The amazing
strength, the skill in the use of the harpoon, the rum and
water, the seal-skin tobacco-pouch, with the coarse tobacco --
all these pointed to a seaman, and one who had been a whaler.
I was convinced that the initials `P.C.' upon the pouch were
a coincidence, and not those of Peter Carey, since he seldom
smoked, and no pipe was found in his cabin. You remember that
I asked whether whisky and brandy were in the cabin. You said
they were. How many landsmen are there who would drink rum when
they could get these other spirits? Yes, I was certain it was
a seaman."

"And how did you find him?"

"My dear sir, the problem had become a very simple one. If it
were a seaman, it could only be a seaman who had been with him
on the SEA UNICORN. So far as I could learn he had sailed in no
other ship. I spent three days in wiring to Dundee, and at the
end of that time I had ascertained the names of the crew of the
SEA UNICORN in 1883. When I found Patrick Cairns among the
harpooners my research was nearing its end. I argued that the
man was probably in London, and that he would desire to leave
the country for a time. I therefore spent some days in the
East-end, devised an Arctic expedition, put forth tempting terms
for harpooners who would serve under Captain Basil -- and behold
the result!"

"Wonderful!" cried Hopkins. "Wonderful!"

"You must obtain the release of young Neligan as soon as possible,"
said Holmes. "I confess that I think you owe him some apology.
The tin box must be returned to him, but, of course, the securities
which Peter Carey has sold are lost for ever. There's the cab,
Hopkins, and you can remove your man. If you want me for the trial,
my address and that of Watson will be somewhere in Norway --
I'll send particulars later."
---------------------------------------------------------------

THE STRAND MAGAZINE
Vol. 27 APRIL, 1904
THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES.
By ARTHUR CONAN DOYLE.

VII. --- The Adventure of Charles Augustus Milverton.

IT is years since the incidents of which I speak took place,
and yet it is with diffidence that I allude to them. For a long
time, even with the utmost discretion and reticence, it would
have been impossible to make the facts public; but now the
principal person concerned is beyond the reach of human law,
and with due suppression the story may be told in such fashion
as to injure no one. It records an absolutely unique experience
in the career both of Mr. Sherlock Holmes and of myself. The
reader will excuse me if I conceal the date or any other fact
by which he might trace the actual occurrence.

We had been out for one of our evening rambles, Holmes and I,
and had returned about six o'clock on a cold, frosty winter's
evening. As Holmes turned up the lamp the light fell upon
a card on the table. He glanced at it, and then, with an
ejaculation of disgust, threw it on the floor.
I picked it up and read:--

CHARLES AUGUSTUS MILVERTON,
APPLEDORE TOWERS,
AGENT. HAMPSTEAD.

"Who is he?" I asked.

"The worst man in London," Holmes answered, as he sat down and
stretched his legs before the fire. "Is anything on the back
of the card?"

I turned it over.

"Will call at 6.30 -- C.A.M.," I read.

"Hum! He's about due. Do you feel a creeping, shrinking
sensation, Watson, when you stand before the serpents in the
Zoo and see the slithery, gliding, venomous creatures, with
their deadly eyes and wicked, flattened faces? Well, that's how
Milverton impresses me. I've had to do with fifty murderers in
my career, but the worst of them never gave me the repulsion
which I have for this fellow. And yet I can't get out of doing
business with him -- indeed, he is here at my invitation."

"But who is he?"

"I'll tell you, Watson. He is the king of all the blackmailers.
Heaven help the man, and still more the woman, whose secret and
reputation come into the power of Milverton. With a smiling
face and a heart of marble he will squeeze and squeeze until he
has drained them dry. The fellow is a genius in his way, and
would have made his mark in some more savoury trade. His method
is as follows: He allows it to be known that he is prepared to
pay very high sums for letters which compromise people of wealth
or position. He receives these wares not only from treacherous
valets or maids, but frequently from genteel ruffians who have
gained the confidence and affection of trusting women.
He deals with no niggard hand. I happen to know that he paid
seven hundred pounds to a footman for a note two lines in length,
and that the ruin of a noble family was the result. Everything
which is in the market goes to Milverton, and there are hundreds
in this great city who turn white at his name. No one knows
where his grip may fall, for he is far too rich and far too
cunning to work from hand to mouth. He will hold a card back
for years in order to play it at the moment when the stake is
best worth winning. I have said that he is the worst man in
London, and I would ask you how could one compare the ruffian
who in hot blood bludgeons his mate with this man, who
methodically and at his leisure tortures the soul and wrings
the nerves in order to add to his already swollen money-bags?"

I had seldom heard my friend speak with such intensity of feeling.

"But surely," said I, "the fellow must be within the grasp
of the law?"

"Technically, no doubt, but practically not. What would it
profit a woman, for example, to get him a few months'
imprisonment if her own ruin must immediately follow? His
victims dare not hit back. If ever he blackmailed an innocent
person, then, indeed, we should have him; but he is as cunning
as the Evil One. No, no; we must find other ways to fight him."

"And why is he here?"

"Because an illustrious client has placed her piteous case
in my hands. It is the Lady Eva Brackwell, the most beautiful
DEBUTANTE of last season. She is to be married in a fortnight
to the Earl of Dovercourt. This fiend has several imprudent
letters -- imprudent, Watson, nothing worse -- which were
written to an impecunious young squire in the country.
They would suffice to break off the match. Milverton will send
the letters to the Earl unless a large sum of money is paid him.
I have been commissioned to meet him, and -- to make the best
terms I can."

At that instant there was a clatter and a rattle in the street
below. Looking down I saw a stately carriage and pair, the
brilliant lamps gleaming on the glossy haunches of the noble
chestnuts. A footman opened the door, and a small, stout man
in a shaggy astrachan overcoat descended. A minute later he
was in the room.

Charles Augustus Milverton was a man of fifty, with a large,
intellectual head, a round, plump, hairless face, a perpetual
frozen smile, and two keen grey eyes, which gleamed brightly
from behind broad, golden-rimmed glasses. There was something
of Mr. Pickwick's benevolence in his appearance, marred only by
the insincerity of the fixed smile and by the hard glitter of
those restless and penetrating eyes. His voice was as smooth
and suave as his countenance, as he advanced with a plump little
hand extended, murmuring his regret for having missed us at his
first visit. Holmes disregarded the outstretched hand and
looked at him with a face of granite. Milverton's smile
broadened; he shrugged his shoulders, removed his overcoat,
folded it with great deliberation over the back of a chair,
and then took a seat.

"This gentleman?" said he, with a wave in my direction.
"Is it discreet? Is it right?"

"Dr. Watson is my friend and partner."

"Very good, Mr. Holmes. It is only in your client's interests
that I protested. The matter is so very delicate ----"

"Dr. Watson has already heard of it."

"Then we can proceed to business. You say that you are acting
for Lady Eva. Has she empowered you to accept my terms?"

"What are your terms?"

"Seven thousand pounds."

"And the alternative?"

"My dear sir, it is painful for me to discuss it; but if the
money is not paid on the 14th there certainly will be no
marriage on the 18th." His insufferable smile was more
complacent than ever.

Holmes thought for a little.

"You appear to me," he said, at last, "to be taking matters too
much for granted. I am, of course, familiar with the contents
of these letters. My client will certainly do what I may
advise. I shall counsel her to tell her future husband the
whole story and to trust to his generosity."

Milverton chuckled.

"You evidently do not know the Earl," said he.

From the baffled look upon Holmes's face I could see clearly
that he did.

"What harm is there in the letters?" he asked.

"They are sprightly -- very sprightly," Milverton answered.
"The lady was a charming correspondent. But I can assure you
that the Earl of Dovercourt would fail to appreciate them.
However, since you think otherwise, we will let it rest at that.
It is purely a matter of business. If you think that it is in
the best interests of your client that these letters should
be placed in the hands of the Earl, then you would indeed be
foolish to pay so large a sum of money to regain them."
He rose and seized his astrachan coat.

Holmes was grey with anger and mortification.

"Wait a little," he said. "You go too fast. We would certainly
make every effort to avoid scandal in so delicate a matter."

Milverton relapsed into his chair.

"I was sure that you would see it in that light," he purred.

"At the same time," Holmes continued, "Lady Eva is not a wealthy
woman. I assure you that two thousand pounds would be a drain
upon her resources, and that the sum you name is utterly beyond
her power. I beg, therefore, that you will moderate your
demands, and that you will return the letters at the price I
indicate, which is, I assure you, the highest that you can get."

Milverton's smile broadened and his eyes twinkled humorously.

"I am aware that what you say is true about the lady's
resources," said he. "At the same time, you must admit that
the occasion of a lady's marriage is a very suitable time for
her friends and relatives to make some little effort upon her
behalf. They may hesitate as to an acceptable wedding present.
Let me assure them that this little bundle of letters would give
more joy than all the candelabra and butter-dishes in London."

"It is impossible," said Holmes.

"Dear me, dear me, how unfortunate!" cried Milverton, taking out
a bulky pocket-book. "I cannot help thinking that ladies are
ill-advised in not making an effort. Look at this!" He held up
a little note with a coat-of-arms upon the envelope. "That
belongs to -- well, perhaps it is hardly fair to tell the name
until to-morrow morning. But at that time it will be in the
hands of the lady's husband. And all because she will not find
a beggarly sum which she could get by turning her diamonds into
paste. It IS such a pity. Now, you remember the sudden end of
the engagement between the Honourable Miss Miles and Colonel
Dorking? Only two days before the wedding there was a
paragraph in the MORNING POST to say that it was all off.
And why? It is almost incredible, but the absurd sum of twelve
hundred pounds would have settled the whole question.
Is it not pitiful? And here I find you, a man of sense,
boggling about terms when your client's future and honour are
at stake. You surprise me, Mr. Holmes."

"What I say is true," Holmes answered. "The money cannot be
found. Surely it is better for you to take the substantial sum
which I offer than to ruin this woman's career, which can profit
you in no way?"

"There you make a mistake, Mr. Holmes. An exposure would profit
me indirectly to a considerable extent. I have eight or ten
similar cases maturing. If it was circulated among them that
I had made a severe example of the Lady Eva I should find all of
them much more open to reason. You see my point?"

Holmes sprang from his chair.

"Get behind him, Watson! Don't let him out! Now, sir, let us
see the contents of that note-book."

Milverton had glided as quick as a rat to the side of the room,
and stood with his back against the wall.

"Mr. Holmes, Mr. Holmes," he said, turning the front of his coat
and exhibiting the butt of a large revolver, which projected
from the inside pocket. "I have been expecting you to do
something original. This has been done so often, and what good
has ever come from it? I assure you that I am armed to the
teeth, and I am perfectly prepared to use my weapons, knowing
that the law will support me. Besides, your supposition that
I would bring the letters here in a note-book is entirely
mistaken. I would do nothing so foolish. And now, gentlemen,
I have one or two little interviews this evening, and it is a
long drive to Hampstead." He stepped forward, took up his coat,
laid his hand on his revolver, and turned to the door. I picked
up a chair, but Holmes shook his head and I laid it down again.
With bow, a smile, and a twinkle Milverton was out of the room,
and a few moments after we heard the slam of the carriage door
and the rattle of the wheels as he drove away.

Holmes sat motionless by the fire, his hands buried deep in his
trouser pockets, his chin sunk upon his breast, his eyes fixed
upon the glowing embers. For half an hour he was silent and
still. Then, with the gesture of a man who has taken his
decision, he sprang to his feet and passed into his bedroom.
A little later a rakish young workman with a goatee beard and a
swagger lit his clay pipe at the lamp before descending into the
street. "I'll be back some time, Watson," said he, and vanished
into the night. I understood that he had opened his campaign
against Charles Augustus Milverton; but I little dreamed the
strange shape which that campaign was destined to take.

For some days Holmes came and went at all hours in this attire,
but beyond a remark that his time was spent at Hampstead,
and that it was not wasted, I knew nothing of what he was doing.
At last, however, on a wild, tempestuous evening, when the wind
screamed and rattled against the windows, he returned from his
last expedition, and having removed his disguise he sat before
the fire and laughed heartily in his silent inward fashion.

"You would not call me a marrying man, Watson?"

"No, indeed!"

"You'll be interested to hear that I am engaged."

"My dear fellow! I congrat ----"

"To Milverton's housemaid."

"Good heavens, Holmes!"

"I wanted information, Watson."

"Surely you have gone too far?"

"It was a most necessary step. I am a plumber with a rising
business, Escott by name. I have walked out with her each
evening, and I have talked with her. Good heavens, those talks!
However, I have got all I wanted. I know Milverton's house as
I know the palm of my hand."

"But the girl, Holmes?"

He shrugged his shoulders.

"You can't help it, my dear Watson. You must play your cards
as best you can when such a stake is on the table. However,
I rejoice to say that I have a hated rival who will certainly
cut me out the instant that my back is turned. What a splendid
night it is!"

"You like this weather?"

"It suits my purpose. Watson, I mean to burgle Milverton's
house to-night."

I had a catching of the breath, and my skin went cold at the
words, which were slowly uttered in a tone of concentrated
resolution. As a flash of lightning in the night shows up in
an instant every detail of a wide landscape, so at one glance
I seemed to see every possible result of such an action -- the
detection, the capture, the honoured career ending in
irreparable failure and disgrace, my friend himself lying at
the mercy of the odious Milverton.

"For Heaven's sake, Holmes, think what you are doing," I cried.

"My dear fellow, I have given it every consideration. I am
never precipitate in my actions, nor would I adopt so energetic
and indeed so dangerous a course if any other were possible.
Let us look at the matter clearly and fairly. I suppose that
you will admit that the action is morally justifiable, though
technically criminal. To burgle his house is no more than to
forcibly take his pocket-book -- an action in which you were
prepared to aid me."

I turned it over in my mind.

"Yes," I said; "it is morally justifiable so long as our object
is to take no articles save those which are used for an illegal
purpose."

"Exactly. Since it is morally justifiable I have only to
consider the question of personal risk. Surely a gentleman
should not lay much stress upon this when a lady is in most
desperate need of his help?"

"You will be in such a false position."

"Well, that is part of the risk. There is no other possible way
of regaining these letters. The unfortunate lady has not the
money, and there are none of her people in whom she could
confide. To-morrow is the last day of grace, and unless we can
get the letters to-night this villain will be as good as his
word and will bring about her ruin. I must, therefore, abandon
my client to her fate or I must play this last card. Between
ourselves, Watson, it's a sporting duel between this fellow
Milverton and me. He had, as you saw, the best of the first
exchanges; but my self-respect and my reputation are concerned
to fight it to a finish."

"Well, I don't like it; but I suppose it must be," said I.
"When do we start?"

"You are not coming."

"Then you are not going," said I. "I give you my word of honour
-- and I never broke it in my life -- that I will take a cab
straight to the police-station and give you away unless you let
me share this adventure with you."

"You can't help me."

"How do you know that? You can't tell what may happen.
Anyway, my resolution is taken. Other people beside you
have self-respect and even reputations."

Holmes had looked annoyed, but his brow cleared, and he clapped
me on the shoulder.

"Well, well, my dear fellow, be it so. We have shared the
same room for some years, and it would be amusing if we ended
by sharing the same cell. You know, Watson, I don't mind
confessing to you that I have always had an idea that I would
have made a highly efficient criminal. This is the chance of my
lifetime in that direction. See here!" He took a neat little
leather case out of a drawer, and opening it he exhibited
a number of shining instruments. "This is a first-class,
up-to-date burgling kit, with nickel-plated jemmy, diamond-tipped
glass-cutter, adaptable keys, and every modern improvement which
the march of civilization demands. Here, too, is my dark lantern.
Everything is in order. Have you a pair of silent shoes?"

"I have rubber-soled tennis shoes."

"Excellent. And a mask?"

"I can make a couple out of black silk."

"I can see that you have a strong natural turn for this sort
of thing. Very good; do you make the masks. We shall have some
cold supper before we start. It is now nine-thirty. At eleven
we shall drive as far as Church Row. It is a quarter of an
hour's walk from there to Appledore Towers. We shall be at work
before midnight. Milverton is a heavy sleeper and retires
punctually at ten-thirty. With any luck we should be back here
by two, with the Lady Eva's letters in my pocket."

Holmes and I put on our dress-clothes, so that we might
appear to be two theatre-goers homeward bound. In Oxford Street
we picked up a hansom and drove to an address in Hampstead.
Here we paid off our cab, and with our great-coats buttoned up,
for it was bitterly cold and the wind seemed to blow through us,
we walked along the edge of the Heath.

"It's a business that needs delicate treatment," said Holmes.
"These documents are contained in a safe in the fellow's study,
and the study is the ante-room of his bed-chamber. On the other
hand, like all these stout, little men who do themselves well,
he is a plethoric sleeper. Agatha -- that's my FIANCEE -- says
it is a joke in the servants' hall that it's impossible to wake
the master. He has a secretary who is devoted to his interests
and never budges from the study all day. That's why we are
going at night. Then he has a beast of a dog which roams the
garden. I met Agatha late the last two evenings, and she locks
the brute up so as to give me a clear run. This is the house,
this big one in its own grounds. Through the gate -- now to
the right among the laurels. We might put on our masks here,
I think. You see, there is not a glimmer of light in any of
the windows, and everything is working splendidly."

With our black silk face-coverings, which turned us into two of
the most truculent figures in London, we stole up to the silent,
gloomy house. A sort of tiled veranda extended along one side
of it, lined by several windows and two doors.

"That's his bedroom," Holmes whispered. "This door opens
straight into the study. It would suit us best, but it is
bolted as well as locked, and we should make too much noise
getting in. Come round here. There's a greenhouse which
opens into the drawing-room."

The place was locked, but Holmes removed a circle of glass and
turned the key from the inside. An instant afterwards he had
closed the door behind us, and we had become felons in the eyes
of the law. The thick, warm air of the conservatory and the
rich, choking fragrance of exotic plants took us by the throat.
He seized my hand in the darkness and led me swiftly past banks
of shrubs which brushed against our faces. Holmes had
remarkable powers, carefully cultivated, of seeing in the dark.
Still holding my hand in one of his he opened a door, and I was
vaguely conscious that we had entered a large room in which a
cigar had been smoked not long before. He felt his way among
the furniture, opened another door, and closed it behind us.
Putting out my hand I felt several coats hanging from the wall,
and I understood that I was in a passage. We passed along it,
and Holmes very gently opened a door upon the right-hand side.
Something rushed out at us and my heart sprang into my mouth,
but I could have laughed when I realized that it was the cat.
A fire was burning in this new room, and again the air was heavy
with tobacco smoke. Holmes entered on tiptoe, waited for me
to follow, and then very gently closed the door. We were in
Milverton's study, and a PORTIERE at the farther side showed
the entrance to his bedroom.

It was a good fire, and the room was illuminated by it.
Near the door I saw the gleam of an electric switch, but it
was unnecessary, even if it had been safe, to turn it on.
At one side of the fireplace was a heavy curtain, which covered
the bay window we had seen from outside. On the other side was
the door which communicated with the veranda. A desk stood in the
centre, with a turning chair of shining red leather. Opposite
was a large bookcase, with a marble bust of Athene on the top.
In the corner between the bookcase and the wall there stood a
tall green safe, the firelight flashing back from the polished
brass knobs upon its face. Holmes stole across and looked at
it. Then he crept to the door of the bedroom, and stood with
slanting head listening intently. No sound came from within.
Meanwhile it had struck me that it would be wise to secure our
retreat through the outer door, so I examined it. To my
amazement it was neither locked nor bolted! I touched Holmes
on the arm, and he turned his masked face in that direction.
I saw him start, and he was evidently as surprised as I.

"I don't like it," he whispered, putting his lips to my very ear.
"I can't quite make it out. Anyhow, we have no time to lose."

"Can I do anything?"

"Yes; stand by the door. If you hear anyone come, bolt it
on the inside, and we can get away as we came. If they come
the other way, we can get through the door if our job is done,
or hide behind these window curtains if it is not. Do you
understand?"

I nodded and stood by the door. My first feeling of fear had
passed away, and I thrilled now with a keener zest than I had
ever enjoyed when we were the defenders of the law instead of
its defiers. The high object of our mission, the consciousness
that it was unselfish and chivalrous, the villainous character
of our opponent, all added to the sporting interest of the
adventure. Far from feeling guilty, I rejoiced and exulted
in our dangers. With a glow of admiration I watched Holmes
unrolling his case of instruments and choosing his tool with the
calm, scientific accuracy of a surgeon who performs a delicate
operation. I knew that the opening of safes was a particular
hobby with him, and I understood the joy which it gave him to be
confronted with this green and gold monster, the dragon which
held in its maw the reputations of many fair ladies. Turning up
the cuffs of his dress-coat -- he had placed his overcoat on a
chair -- Holmes laid out two drills, a jemmy, and several
skeleton keys. I stood at the centre door with my eyes glancing
at each of the others, ready for any emergency; though, indeed,
my plans were somewhat vague as to what I should do if we were
interrupted. For half an hour Holmes worked with concentrated
energy, laying down one tool, picking up another, handling each
with the strength and delicacy of the trained mechanic. Finally
I heard a click, the broad green door swung open, and inside
I had a glimpse of a number of paper packets, each tied, sealed,
and inscribed. Holmes picked one out, but it was hard to read
by the flickering fire, and he drew out his little dark lantern,
for it was too dangerous, with Milverton in the next room, to
switch on the electric light. Suddenly I saw him halt, listen
intently, and then in an instant he had swung the door of the
safe to, picked up his coat, stuffed his tools into the pockets,
and darted behind the window curtain, motioning me to do the same.

It was only when I had joined him there that I heard what had
alarmed his quicker senses. There was a noise somewhere within
the house. A door slammed in the distance. Then a confused,
dull murmur broke itself into the measured thud of heavy
footsteps rapidly approaching. They were in the passage outside
the room. They paused at the door. The door opened. There was
a sharp snick as the electric light was turned on. The door
closed once more, and the pungent reek of a strong cigar was
borne to our nostrils. Then the footsteps continued backwards
and forwards, backwards and forwards, within a few yards of us.
Finally, there was a creak from a chair, and the footsteps ceased.
Then a key clicked in a lock and I heard the rustle of papers.

So far I had not dared to look out, but now I gently parted the
division of the curtains in front of me and peeped through.
From the pressure of Holmes's shoulder against mine I knew
that he was sharing my observations. Right in front of us,
and almost within our reach, was the broad, rounded back of
Milverton. It was evident that we had entirely miscalculated
his movements, that he had never been to his bedroom, but that
he had been sitting up in some smoking or billiard room in the
farther wing of the house, the windows of which we had not seen.
His broad, grizzled head, with its shining patch of baldness,
was in the immediate foreground of our vision. He was leaning
far back in the red leather chair, his legs outstretched, a long
black cigar projecting at an angle from his mouth. He wore a
semi-military smoking jacket, claret-coloured, with a black
velvet collar. In his hand he held a long legal document, which
he was reading in an indolent fashion, blowing rings of tobacco
smoke from his lips as he did so. There was no promise of a
speedy departure in his composed bearing and his comfortable
attitude.

I felt Holmes's hand steal into mine and give me a reassuring
shake, as if to say that the situation was within his powers and
that he was easy in his mind. I was not sure whether he had
seen what was only too obvious from my position, that the door
of the safe was imperfectly closed, and that Milverton might at
any moment observe it. In my own mind I had determined that if
I were sure, from the rigidity of his gaze, that it had caught
his eye, I would at once spring out, throw my great-coat
over his head, pinion him, and leave the rest to Holmes.
But Milverton never looked up. He was languidly interested
by the papers in his hand, and page after page was turned as he
followed the argument of the lawyer. At least, I thought, when
he has finished the document and the cigar he will go to his
room; but before he had reached the end of either there came
a remarkable development which turned our thoughts into quite
another channel.

Several times I had observed that Milverton looked at his
watch, and once he had risen and sat down again, with a gesture
of impatience. The idea, however, that he might have an
appointment at so strange an hour never occurred to me until
a faint sound reached my ears from the veranda outside.
Milverton dropped his papers and sat rigid in his chair.
The sound was repeated, and then there came a gentle tap
at the door. Milverton rose and opened it.

"Well," said he, curtly, "you are nearly half an hour late."

So this was the explanation of the unlocked door and of the
nocturnal vigil of Milverton. There was the gentle rustle of
a woman's dress. I had closed the slit between the curtains as
Milverton's face had turned in our direction, but now I ventured
very carefully to open it once more. He had resumed his seat,
the cigar still projecting at an insolent angle from the corner
of his mouth. In front of him, in the full glare of the
electric light, there stood a tall, slim, dark woman, a veil
over her face, a mantle drawn round her chin. Her breath came
quick and fast, and every inch of the lithe figure was quivering
with strong emotion.

"Well," said Milverton, "you've made me lose a good night's rest,
my dear. I hope you'll prove worth it. You couldn't come any
other time -- eh?"

The woman shook her head.

"Well, if you couldn't you couldn't. If the Countess is a
hard mistress you have your chance to get level with her now.
Bless the girl, what are you shivering about? That's right!
Pull yourself together! Now, let us get down to business."
He took a note from the drawer of his desk. "You say that
you have five letters which compromise the Countess d'Albert.
You want to sell them. I want to buy them. So far so good.
It only remains to fix a price. I should want to inspect the
letters, of course. If they are really good specimens ---
Great heavens, is it you?"

The woman without a word had raised her veil and dropped the
mantle from her chin. It was a dark, handsome, clear-cut face
which confronted Milverton, a face with a curved nose, strong,
dark eyebrows shading hard, glittering eyes, and a straight,
thin-lipped mouth set in a dangerous smile.

"It is I," she said; "the woman whose life you have ruined."

Milverton laughed, but fear vibrated in his voice. "You were
so very obstinate," said he. "Why did you drive me to such
extremities? I assure you I wouldn't hurt a fly of my own
accord, but every man has his business, and what was I to do?
I put the price well within your means. You would not pay."

"So you sent the letters to my husband, and he -- the noblest
gentleman that ever lived, a man whose boots I was never worthy
to lace -- he broke his gallant heart and died. You remember
that last night when I came through that door I begged and
prayed you for mercy, and you laughed in my face as you are
trying to laugh now, only your coward heart cannot keep your
lips from twitching? Yes, you never thought to see me here
again, but it was that night which taught me how I could meet
you face to face, and alone. Well, Charles Milverton, what have
you to say?"

"Don't imagine that you can bully me," said he, rising to
his feet. "I have only to raise my voice, and I could call
my servants and have you arrested. But I will make allowance
for your natural anger. Leave the room at once as you came,
and I will say no more."

The woman stood with her hand buried in her bosom, and the same
deadly smile on her thin lips.

"You will ruin no more lives as you ruined mine. You will wring
no more hearts as you wrung mine. I will free the world of a
poisonous thing. Take that, you hound, and that! -- and that!
-- and that!"

She had drawn a little, gleaming revolver, and emptied barrel
after barrel into Milverton's body, the muzzle within two feet
of his shirt front. He shrank away and then fell forward upon
the table, coughing furiously and clawing among the papers.
Then he staggered to his feet, received another shot, and rolled
upon the floor. "You've done me," he cried, and lay still.
The woman looked at him intently and ground her heel into his
upturned face. She looked again, but there was no sound or
movement. I heard a sharp rustle, the night air blew into the
heated room, and the avenger was gone.

No interference upon our part could have saved the man from
his fate; but as the woman poured bullet after bullet into
Milverton's shrinking body I was about to spring out, when I
felt Holmes's cold, strong grasp upon my wrist. I understood
the whole argument of that firm, restraining grip -- that it was
no affair of ours; that justice had overtaken a villain; that we
had our own duties and our own objects which were not to be lost
sight of. But hardly had the woman rushed from the room when
Holmes, with swift, silent steps, was over at the other door.
He turned the key in the lock. At the same instant we heard
voices in the house and the sound of hurrying feet. The
revolver shots had roused the household. With perfect coolness
Holmes slipped across to the safe, filled his two arms with
bundles of letters, and poured them all into the fire. Again
and again he did it, until the safe was empty. Someone turned
the handle and beat upon the outside of the door. Holmes looked
swiftly round. The letter which had been the messenger of death
for Milverton lay, all mottled with his blood, upon the table.
Holmes tossed it in among the blazing papers. Then he drew the
key from the outer door, passed through after me, and locked it
on the outside. "This way, Watson," said he; "we can scale the
garden wall in this direction."

I could not have believed that an alarm could have spread so
swiftly. Looking back, the huge house was one blaze of light.
The front door was open, and figures were rushing down the
drive. The whole garden was alive with people, and one fellow
raised a view-halloa as we emerged from the veranda and followed
hard at our heels. Holmes seemed to know the ground perfectly,
and he threaded his way swiftly among a plantation of small
trees, I close at his heels, and our foremost pursuer panting
behind us. It was a six-foot wall which barred our path, but he
sprang to the top and over. As I did the same I felt the hand
of the man behind me grab at my ankle; but I kicked myself free
and scrambled over a glass-strewn coping. I fell upon my face
among some bushes; but Holmes had me on my feet in an instant,
and together we dashed away across the huge expanse of Hampstead
Heath. We had run two miles, I suppose, before Holmes at last
halted and listened intently. All was absolute silence behind us.
We had shaken off our pursuers and were safe.

We had breakfasted and were smoking our morning pipe on the
day after the remarkable experience which I have recorded when
Mr. Lestrade, of Scotland Yard, very solemn and impressive,
was ushered into our modest sitting-room.

"Good morning, Mr. Holmes," said he; "good morning.
May I ask if you are very busy just now?"

"Not too busy to listen to you."

"I thought that, perhaps, if you had nothing particular on hand,
you might care to assist us in a most remarkable case which
occurred only last night at Hampstead."

"Dear me!" said Holmes. "What was that?"

"A murder -- a most dramatic and remarkable murder. I know how
keen you are upon these things, and I would take it as a great
favour if you would step down to Appledore Towers and give us
the benefit of your advice. It is no ordinary crime. We have
had our eyes upon this Mr. Milverton for some time, and, between
ourselves, he was a bit of a villain. He is known to have held
papers which he used for blackmailing purposes. These papers
have all been burned by the murderers. No article of value was
taken, as it is probable that the criminals were men of good
position, whose sole object was to prevent social exposure."

"Criminals!" said Holmes. "Plural!"

"Yes, there were two of them. They were, as nearly as possible,
captured red-handed. We have their foot-marks, we have their
description; it's ten to one that we trace them. The first
fellow was a bit too active, but the second was caught by the
under-gardener and only got away after a struggle. He was a
middle-sized, strongly-built man -- square jaw, thick neck,
moustache, a mask over his eyes."

"That's rather vague," said Sherlock Holmes.
"Why, it might be a description of Watson!"

"It's true," said the inspector, with much amusement.
"It might be a description of Watson."

"Well, I am afraid I can't help you, Lestrade," said Holmes.
"The fact is that I knew this fellow Milverton, that I
considered him one of the most dangerous men in London, and that
I think there are certain crimes which the law cannot touch,
and which therefore, to some extent, justify private revenge.
No, it's no use arguing. I have made up my mind. My sympathies
are with the criminals rather than with the victim, and I will
not handle this case."

Holmes had not said one word to me about the tragedy which we
had witnessed, but I observed all the morning that he was in his
most thoughtful mood, and he gave me the impression, from his
vacant eyes and his abstracted manner, of a man who is striving
to recall something to his memory. We were in the middle of our
lunch when he suddenly sprang to his feet. "By Jove, Watson;
I've got it!" he cried. "Take your hat! Come with me!"
He hurried at his top speed down Baker Street and along Oxford
Street, until we had almost reached Regent Circus. Here on the
left hand there stands a shop window filled with photographs of
the celebrities and beauties of the day. Holmes's eyes fixed
themselves upon one of them, and following his gaze I saw the
picture of a regal and stately lady in Court dress, with a high
diamond tiara upon her noble head. I looked at that
delicately-curved nose, at the marked eyebrows, at the straight
mouth, and the strong little chin beneath it. Then I caught my
breath as I read the time-honoured title of the great nobleman
and statesman whose wife she had been. My eyes met those of Holmes,
and he put his finger to his lips as we turned away from the window.
---------------------------------------------------------------

THE STRAND MAGAZINE
Vol. 27 MAY, 1904
THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES.
By ARTHUR CONAN DOYLE.

VIII. --- The Adventure of the Six Napoleons.

IT was no very unusual thing for Mr. Lestrade, of Scotland Yard,
to look in upon us of an evening, and his visits were welcome to
Sherlock Holmes, for they enabled him to keep in touch with all
that was going on at the police head-quarters. In return for
the news which Lestrade would bring, Holmes was always ready to
listen with attention to the details of any case upon which the
detective was engaged, and was able occasionally, without any
active interference, to give some hint or suggestion drawn from
his own vast knowledge and experience.

On this particular evening Lestrade had spoken of the weather
and the newspapers. Then he had fallen silent, puffing
thoughtfully at his cigar. Holmes looked keenly at him.

"Anything remarkable on hand?" he asked.

"Oh, no, Mr. Holmes, nothing very particular."

"Then tell me about it."

Lestrade laughed.

"Well, Mr. Holmes, there is no use denying that there IS
something on my mind. And yet it is such an absurd business
that I hesitated to bother you about it. On the other hand,
although it is trivial, it is undoubtedly queer, and I know that
you have a taste for all that is out of the common. But in my
opinion it comes more in Dr. Watson's line than ours."

"Disease?" said I.

"Madness, anyhow. And a queer madness too! You wouldn't think
there was anyone living at this time of day who had such a
hatred of Napoleon the First that he would break any image of
him that he could see."

Holmes sank back in his chair.

"That's no business of mine," said he.

"Exactly. That's what I said. But then, when the man commits
burglary in order to break images which are not his own, that
brings it away from the doctor and on to the policeman."

Holmes sat up again.

"Burglary! This is more interesting. Let me hear the details."

Lestrade took out his official note-book and refreshed his
memory from its pages.

"The first case reported was four days ago," said he. "It was
at the shop of Morse Hudson, who has a place for the sale of
pictures and statues in the Kennington Road. The assistant had
left the front shop for an instant when he heard a crash, and
hurrying in he found a plaster bust of Napoleon, which stood
with several other works of art upon the counter, lying shivered
into fragments. He rushed out into the road, but, although
several passers-by declared that they had noticed a man run out
of the shop, he could neither see anyone nor could he find any
means of identifying the rascal. It seemed to be one of those
senseless acts of Hooliganism which occur from time to time,
and it was reported to the constable on the beat as such.
The plaster cast was not worth more than a few shillings,
and the whole affair appeared to be too childish for any
particular investigation.

"The second case, however, was more serious and also more
singular. It occurred only last night.

"In Kennington Road, and within a few hundred yards of Morse
Hudson's shop, there lives a well-known medical practitioner,
named Dr. Barnicot, who has one of the largest practices upon
the south side of the Thames. His residence and principal
consulting-room is at Kennington Road, but he has a branch
surgery and dispensary at Lower Brixton Road, two miles away.
This Dr. Barnicot is an enthusiastic admirer of Napoleon, and
his house is full of books, pictures, and relics of the French
Emperor. Some little time ago he purchased from Morse Hudson
two duplicate plaster casts of the famous head of Napoleon by
the French sculptor, Devine. One of these he placed in his
hall in the house at Kennington Road, and the other on the
mantelpiece of the surgery at Lower Brixton. Well, when Dr.
Barnicot came down this morning he was astonished to find that
his house had been burgled during the night, but that nothing
had been taken save the plaster head from the hall. It had been
carried out and had been dashed savagely against the garden
wall, under which its splintered fragments were discovered."

Holmes rubbed his hands.

"This is certainly very novel," said he.

"I thought it would please you. But I have not got to the end
yet. Dr. Barnicot was due at his surgery at twelve o'clock,
and you can imagine his amazement when, on arriving there,
he found that the window had been opened in the night, and that
the broken pieces of his second bust were strewn all over the room.
It had been smashed to atoms where it stood. In neither case
were there any signs which could give us a clue as to the
criminal or lunatic who had done the mischief. Now, Mr. Holmes,
you have got the facts."

"They are singular, not to say grotesque," said Holmes.
"May I ask whether the two busts smashed in Dr. Barnicot's
rooms were the exact duplicates of the one which was destroyed
in Morse Hudson's shop?"

"They were taken from the same mould."

"Such a fact must tell against the theory that the man who
breaks them is influenced by any general hatred of Napoleon.
Considering how many hundreds of statues of the great Emperor
must exist in London, it is too much to suppose such a
coincidence as that a promiscuous iconoclast should chance
to begin upon three specimens of the same bust."

"Well, I thought as you do," said Lestrade. "On the other hand,
this Morse Hudson is the purveyor of busts in that part of
London, and these three were the only ones which had been in his
shop for years. So, although, as you say, there are many
hundreds of statues in London, it is very probable that these
three were the only ones in that district. Therefore, a local
fanatic would begin with them. What do you think, Dr. Watson?"

"There are no limits to the possibilities of monomania,"
I answered. "There is the condition which the modern French
psychologists have called the `idee fixe,' which may be trifling
in character, and accompanied by complete sanity in every other
way. A man who had read deeply about Napoleon, or who had
possibly received some hereditary family injury through the
great war, might conceivably form such an `idee fixe' and under
its influence be capable of any fantastic outrage."

"That won't do, my dear Watson," said Holmes, shaking his head;
"for no amount of `idee fixe' would enable your interesting
monomaniac to find out where these busts were situated."

"Well, how do YOU explain it?"

"I don't attempt to do so. I would only observe that there is a
certain method in the gentleman's eccentric proceedings. For
example, in Dr. Barnicot's hall, where a sound might arouse the
family, the bust was taken outside before being broken, whereas
in the surgery, where there was less danger of an alarm, it was
smashed where it stood. The affair seems absurdly trifling, and
yet I dare call nothing trivial when I reflect that some of my
most classic cases have had the least promising commencement.
You will remember, Watson, how the dreadful business of the
Abernetty family was first brought to my notice by the depth
which the parsley had sunk into the butter upon a hot day.
I can't afford, therefore, to smile at your three broken busts,
Lestrade, and I shall be very much obliged to you if you will
let me hear of any fresh developments of so singular a chain
of events."

The development for which my friend had asked came in a quicker
and an infinitely more tragic form than he could have imagined.
I was still dressing in my bedroom next morning when there was
a tap at the door and Holmes entered, a telegram in his hand.
He read it aloud:--

"Come instantly, 131, Pitt Street, Kensington. -- Lestrade."

"What is it, then?" I asked.

"Don't know -- may be anything. But I suspect it is the
sequel of the story of the statues. In that case our friend,
the image-breaker, has begun operations in another quarter of
London. There's coffee on the table, Watson, and I have a cab
at the door."

In half an hour we had reached Pitt Street, a quiet little
backwater just beside one of the briskest currents of London
life. No. 131 was one of a row, all flat-chested, respectable,
and most unromantic dwellings. As we drove up we found the
railings in front of the house lined by a curious 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 in that fellow's round shoulders and outstretched
neck. What's this, Watson? The top steps swilled down and the
other ones dry. Footsteps enough, anyhow! Well, well, there's
Lestrade at the front window, and we shall soon know all about it."

The official received us with a very grave face and showed us
into a sitting-room, where an exceedingly unkempt and agitated
elderly man, clad in a flannel dressing-gown, was pacing up and
down. He was introduced to us as the owner of the house --
Mr. Horace Harker, of the Central Press Syndicate.

"It's the Napoleon bust business again," said Lestrade.
"You seemed interested last night, Mr. Holmes, so I thought
perhaps you would be glad to be present now that the affair
has taken a very much graver turn."

"What has it turned to, then?"

"To murder. Mr. Harker, will you tell these gentlemen exactly
what has occurred?"

The man in the dressing-gown turned upon us with a most
melancholy face.

"It's an extraordinary thing," said he, "that all my life I have
been collecting other people's news, and now that a real piece
of news has come my own way I am so confused and bothered that
I can't put two words together. If I had come in here as a
journalist I should have interviewed myself and had two columns
in every evening paper. As it is I am giving away valuable copy
by telling my story over and over to a string of different people,
and I can make no use of it myself. However, I've heard your name,
Mr. Sherlock Holmes, and if you'll only explain this queer business
I shall be paid for my trouble in telling you the story."

Holmes sat down and listened.

"It all seems to centre round that bust of Napoleon which I
bought for this very room about four months ago. I picked it up
cheap from Harding Brothers, two doors from the High Street
Station. A great deal of my journalistic work is done at night,
and I often write until the early morning. So it was to-day.
I was sitting in my den, which is at the back of the top of the
house, about three o'clock, when I was convinced that I heard
some sounds downstairs. I listened, but they were not repeated,
and I concluded that they came from outside. Then suddenly,
about five minutes later, there came a most horrible yell -- the
most dreadful sound, Mr. Holmes, that ever I heard. It will
ring in my ears as long as I live. I sat frozen with horror for
a minute or two. Then I seized the poker and went downstairs.
When I entered this room I found the window wide open, and I at
once observed that the bust was gone from the mantelpiece.
Why any burglar should take such a thing passes my understanding,
for it was only a plaster cast and of no real value whatever.

"You can see for yourself that anyone going out through that
open window could reach the front doorstep by taking a long
stride. This was clearly what the burglar had done, so I went
round and opened the door. Stepping out into the dark I nearly
fell over a dead man who was lying there. I ran back for a
light, and there was the poor fellow, a great gash in his throat
and the whole place swimming in blood. He lay on his back, his
knees drawn up, and his mouth horribly open. I shall see him in
my dreams. I had just time to blow on my police-whistle, and
then I must have fainted, for I knew nothing more until I found
the policeman standing over me in the hall."

"Well, who was the murdered man?" asked Holmes.

"There's nothing to show who he was," said Lestrade. "You shall
see the body at the mortuary, but we have made nothing of it up
to now. He is a tall man, sunburned, very powerful, not more
than thirty. He is poorly dressed, and yet does not appear to
be a labourer. A horn-handled clasp knife was lying in a pool
of blood beside him. Whether it was the weapon which did the
deed, or whether it belonged to the dead man, I do not know.
There was no name on his clothing, and nothing in his pockets
save an apple, some string, a shilling map of London, and a
photograph. Here it is."

It was evidently taken by a snap-shot from a small camera.
It represented an alert, sharp-featured simian man with thick
eyebrows, and a very peculiar projection of the lower part of
the face like the muzzle of a baboon.

"And what became of the bust?" asked Holmes, after a careful
study of this picture.

"We had news of it just before you came. It has been found
in the front garden of an empty house in Campden House Road.
It was broken into fragments. I am going round now to see it.
Will you come?"

"Certainly. I must just take one look round." He examined the
carpet and the window. "The fellow had either very long legs or
was a most active man," said he. "With an area beneath, it was
no mean feat to reach that window-ledge and open that window.
Getting back was comparatively simple. Are you coming with us
to see the remains of your bust, Mr. Harker?"

The disconsolate journalist had seated himself at a writing-table.

"I must try and make something of it," said he, "though I have
no doubt that the first editions of the evening papers are out
already with full details. It's like my luck! You remember
when the stand fell at Doncaster? Well, I was the only
journalist in the stand, and my journal the only one that had
no account of it, for I was too shaken to write it. And now
I'll be too late with a murder done on my own doorstep."

As we left the room we heard his pen travelling shrilly over
the foolscap.

The spot where the fragments of the bust had been found was only
a few hundred yards away. For the first time our eyes rested
upon this presentment of the great Emperor, which seemed to
raise such frantic and destructive hatred in the mind of the
unknown. It lay scattered in splintered shards upon the
grass. Holmes picked up several of them and examined them
carefully. I was convinced from his intent face and his
purposeful manner that at last he was upon a clue.

"Well?" asked Lestrade.

Holmes shrugged his shoulders.

"We have a long way to go yet," said he. "And yet -- and yet --
well, we have some suggestive facts to act upon. The possession
of this trifling bust was worth more in the eyes of this
strange criminal than a human life. That is one point.
Then there is the singular fact that he did not break it in the
house, or immediately outside the house, if to break it was his
sole object."

"He was rattled and bustled by meeting this other fellow.
He hardly knew what he was doing."

"Well, that's likely enough. But I wish to call your attention
very particularly to the position of this house in the garden
of which the bust was destroyed."

Lestrade looked about him.

"It was an empty house, and so he knew that he would not be
disturbed in the garden."

"Yes, but there is another empty house farther up the street
which he must have passed before he came to this one. Why did
he not break it there, since it is evident that every yard that
he carried it increased the risk of someone meeting him?"

"I give it up," said Lestrade.

Holmes pointed to the street lamp above our heads.

"He could see what he was doing here and he could not there.
That was his reason."

"By Jove! that's true," said the detective. "Now that I come to
think of it, Dr. Barnicot's bust was broken not far from his red
lamp. Well, Mr. Holmes, what are we to do with that fact?"

"To remember it -- to docket it. We may come on something
later which will bear upon it. What steps do you propose
to take now, Lestrade?"

"The most practical way of getting at it, in my opinion, is to
identify the dead man. There should be no difficulty about
that. When we have found who he is and who his associates are,
we should have a good start in learning what he was doing in
Pitt Street last night, and who it was who met him and killed
him on the doorstep of Mr. Horace Harker. Don't you think so?"

"No doubt; and yet it is not quite the way in which I should
approach the case."

"What would you do, then?"

"Oh, you must not let me influence you in any way! I suggest
that you go on your line and I on mine. We can compare notes
afterwards, and each will supplement the other."

"Very good," said Lestrade.

"If you are going back to Pitt Street you might see Mr. Horace
Harker. Tell him from me that I have quite made up my mind,
and that it is certain that a dangerous homicidal lunatic with
Napoleonic delusions was in his house last night. It will be
useful for his article."

Lestrade stared.

"You don't seriously believe that?"

Holmes smiled.

"Don't I? Well, perhaps I don't. But I am sure that it will
interest Mr. Horace Harker and the subscribers of the Central
Press Syndicate. Now, Watson, I think that we shall find that
we have a long and rather complex day's work before us.
I should be glad, Lestrade, if you could make it convenient to
meet us at Baker Street at six o'clock this evening. Until then
I should like to keep this photograph found in the dead man's
pocket. It is possible that I may have to ask your company and
assistance upon a small expedition which will have be undertaken
to-night, if my chain of reasoning should prove to be correct.
Until then, good-bye and good luck!"

Sherlock Holmes and I walked together to the High Street, where
he stopped at the shop of Harding Brothers, whence the bust had
been purchased. A young assistant informed us that Mr. Harding
would be absent until after noon, and that he was himself a
newcomer who could give us no information. Holmes's face
showed his disappointment and annoyance.

"Well, well, we can't expect to have it all our own way,
Watson," he said, at last. "We must come back in the afternoon
if Mr. Harding will not be here until then. I am, as you have
no doubt surmised, endeavouring to trace these busts to their
source, in order to find if there is not something peculiar
which may account for their remarkable fate. Let us make for
Mr. Morse Hudson, of the Kennington Road, and see if he can
throw any light upon the problem."

A drive of an hour brought us to the picture-dealer's
establishment. He was a small, stout man with a red face
and a peppery manner.

"Yes, sir. On my very counter, sir," said he. "What we pay
rates and taxes for I don't know, when any ruffian can come in
and break one's goods. Yes, sir, it was I who sold Dr. Barnicot
his two statues. Disgraceful, sir! A Nihilist plot, that's
what I make it. No one but an Anarchist would go about breaking
statues. Red republicans, that's what I call 'em. Who did I
get the statues from? I don't see what that has to do with it.
Well, if you really want to know, I got them from Gelder and Co.,
in Church Street, Stepney. They are a well-known house in the
trade, and have been this twenty years. How many had I?
Three -- two and one are three -- two of Dr. Barnicot's and one
smashed in broad daylight on my own counter. Do I know that
photograph? No, I don't. Yes, I do, though. Why, it's Beppo.
He was a kind of Italian piece-work man, who made himself useful
in the shop. He could carve a bit and gild and frame, and do
odd jobs. The fellow left me last week, and I've heard nothing
of him since. No, I don't know where he came from nor where he
went to. I have nothing against him while he was here. He was
gone two days before the bust was smashed."

"Well, that's all we could reasonably expect to get 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 and Co., of Stepney, the source and origin of busts.
I shall be surprised if we don't get some help down there."

In rapid succession we passed through the fringe of fashionable
London, hotel London, theatrical London, literary London,
commercial London, and, finally, maritime London, till we came
to a riverside city of a hundred thousand souls, where the
tenement houses swelter and reek with the outcasts of Europe.
Here, in a broad thoroughfare, once the abode of wealthy City
merchants, we found the sculpture works for which we searched.
Outside was a considerable yard full of monumental masonry.
Inside was a large room in which fifty workers were carving or
moulding. The manager, a big blond German, received us civilly,
and gave a clear answer to all Holmes's questions. A reference
to his books showed that hundreds of casts had been taken from
a marble copy of Devine's head of Napoleon, but that the three
which had been sent to Morse Hudson a year or so before had been
half of a batch of six, the other three being sent to Harding
Brothers, of Kensington. There was no reason why those six
should be different to any of the other casts. He could
suggest no possible cause why anyone should wish to destroy
them -- in fact, he laughed at the idea. Their wholesale price
was six shillings, but the retailer would get twelve or more.
The cast was taken in two moulds from each side of the face, and
then these two profiles of plaster of Paris were joined together
to make the complete bust. The work was usually done by
Italians in the room we were in. When finished the busts were
put on a table in the passage to dry, and afterwards stored.
That was all he could tell us.

But the production of the photograph had a remarkable effect
upon the manager. His face flushed with anger, and his brows
knotted over his blue Teutonic eyes.

"Ah, the rascal!" he cried. "Yes, indeed, I know him very well.
This has always been a respectable establishment, and the only
time that we have ever had the police in it was over this very
fellow. It was more than a year ago now. He knifed another
Italian in the street, and then he came to the works with the
police on his heels, and he was taken here. Beppo was his
name -- his second name I never knew. Serve me right for
engaging a man with such a face. But he was a good workman,
one of the best."

"What did he get?"

"The man lived and he got off with a year. I have no doubt he is
out now; but he has not dared to show his nose here. We have a
cousin of his here, and I dare say he could tell you where he is."

"No, no," cried Holmes, "not a word to the cousin -- not a word,
I beg you. The matter is very important, and the farther I go
with it the more important it seems to grow. When you referred
in your ledger to the sale of those casts I observed that the
date was June 3rd of last year. Could you give me the date when
Beppo was arrested?"

"I could tell you roughly by the pay-list," the manager
answered. "Yes," he continued, after some turning over of
pages, "he was paid last on May 20th."

"Thank you," said Holmes. "I don't think that I need intrude
upon your time and patience any more." With a last word of
caution that he should say nothing as to our researches we
turned our faces westward once more.

The afternoon was far advanced before we were able to snatch
a hasty luncheon at a restaurant. A news-bill at the entrance
announced "Kensington Outrage. Murder by a Madman," and the
contents of the paper showed that Mr. Horace Harker had got his
account into print after all. Two columns were occupied with
a highly sensational and flowery rendering of the whole incident.
Holmes propped it against the cruet-stand and read it while he ate.
Once or twice he chuckled.

"This is all right, Watson," said he. "Listen to this:
`It is satisfactory to know that there can be no difference
of opinion upon this case, since Mr. Lestrade, one of the most
experienced members of the official force, and Mr. Sherlock
Holmes, the well-known consulting expert, have each come to the
conclusion that the grotesque series of incidents, which have
ended in so tragic a fashion, arise from lunacy rather than from
deliberate crime. No explanation save mental aberration can
cover the facts.' The Press, Watson, is a most valuable
institution if you only know how to use it. And now, if you
have quite finished, we will hark back to Kensington and see
what the manager of Harding Brothers has to say to the matter."

The founder of that great emporium proved to be a brisk,
crisp little person, very dapper and quick, with a clear head
and a ready tongue.

"Yes, sir, I have already read the account in the evening
papers. Mr. Horace Harker is a customer of ours. We supplied
him with the bust some months ago. We ordered three busts of
that sort from Gelder and Co., of Stepney. They are all sold now.
To whom? Oh, I dare say by consulting our sales book we could
very easily tell you. Yes, we have the entries here. One to
Mr. Harker, you see, and one to Mr. Josiah Brown, of Laburnum
Lodge, Laburnum Vale, Chiswick, and one to Mr. Sandeford, of
Lower Grove Road, Reading. No, I have never seen this face
which you show me in the photograph. You would hardly forget
it, would you, sir, for I've seldom seen an uglier. Have we any
Italians on the staff? Yes, sir, we have several among our
workpeople and cleaners. I dare say they might get a peep at
that sales book if they wanted to. There is no particular
reason for keeping a watch upon that book. Well, well, it's a
very strange business, and I hope that you'll let me know if
anything comes of your inquiries."

Holmes had taken several notes during Mr. Harding's evidence,
and I could see that he was thoroughly satisfied by the turn
which affairs were taking. He made no remark, however, save
that, unless we hurried, we should be late for our appointment
with Lestrade. Sure enough, when we reached Baker Street the
detective was already there, and we found him pacing up and down
in a fever of impatience. His look of importance showed that
his day's work had not been in vain.

"Well?" he asked. "What luck, Mr. Holmes?"

"We have had a very busy day, and not entirely a wasted one,"
my friend explained. "We have seen both the retailers and also
the wholesale manufacturers. I can trace each of the busts now
from the beginning."

"The busts!" cried Lestrade. "Well, well, you have your own
methods, Mr. Sherlock Holmes, and it is not for me to say a
word against them, but I think I have done a better day's work
than you. I have identified the dead man."

"You don't say so?"

"And found a cause for the crime."

"Splendid!"

"We have an inspector who makes a specialty of Saffron Hill and
the Italian quarter. Well, this dead man had some Catholic
emblem round his neck, and that, along with his colour, made me
think he was from the South. Inspector Hill knew him the moment
he caught sight of him. His name is Pietro Venucci, from Naples,
and he is one of the greatest cut-throats in London.
He is connected with the Mafia, which, as you know, is a secret
political society, enforcing its decrees by murder. Now you
see how the affair begins to clear up. The other fellow is
probably an Italian also, and a member of the Mafia. He has
broken the rules in some fashion. Pietro is set upon his track.
Probably the photograph we found in his pocket is the man
himself, so that he may not knife the wrong person. He dogs
the fellow, he sees him enter a house, he waits outside for him,
and in the scuffle he receives his own death-wound. How is that,
Mr. Sherlock Holmes?"

Holmes clapped his hands approvingly.

"Excellent, Lestrade, excellent!" he cried. "But I didn't quite
follow your explanation of the destruction of the busts."

"The busts! You never can get those busts out of your head.
After all, that is nothing; petty larceny, six months at the most.
It is the murder that we are really investigating, and I tell
you that I am gathering all the threads into my hands."

"And the next stage?"

"Is a very simple one. I shall go down with Hill to the Italian
quarter, find the man whose photograph we have got, and arrest
him on the charge of murder. Will you come with us?"

"I think not. I fancy we can attain our end in a simpler way.
I can't say for certain, because it all depends -- well, it all
depends upon a factor which is completely outside our control.
But I have great hopes -- in fact, the betting is exactly two
to one -- that if you will come with us to-night I shall be able
to help you to lay him by the heels."

"In the Italian quarter?"

"No; I fancy Chiswick is an address which is more likely to find
him. If you will come with me to Chiswick to-night, Lestrade,
I'll promise to go to the Italian quarter with you to-morrow,
and no harm will be done by the delay. And now I think that a
few hours' sleep would do us all good, for I do not propose to
leave before eleven o'clock, and it is unlikely that we shall
be back before morning. You'll dine with us, Lestrade, and then
you are welcome to the sofa until it is time for us to start.
In the meantime, Watson, I should be glad if you would ring for
an express messenger, for I have a letter to send, and it is
important that it should go at once."

Holmes spent the evening in rummaging among the files of the
old daily papers with which one of our lumber-rooms was packed.
When at last he descended it was with triumph in his eyes,

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