It was in the spring of the year 1894 that all London was interested, and th_ashionable world dismayed, by the murder of the Honourable Ronald Adair unde_ost unusual and inexplicable circumstances. The public has already learne_hose particulars of the crime which came out in the police investigation; bu_ good deal was suppressed upon that occasion, since the case for th_rosecution was so overwhelmingly strong that it was not necessary to brin_orward all the facts. Only now, at the end of nearly ten years, am I allowe_o supply those missing links which make up the whole of that remarkabl_hain. The crime was of interest in itself, but that interest was as nothin_o me compared to the inconceivable sequel, which afforded me the greates_hock and surprise of any event in my adventurous life. Even now, after thi_ong interval, I find myself thrilling as I think of it, and feeling once mor_hat sudden flood of joy, amazement, and incredulity which utterly submerge_y mind. Let me say to that public which has shown some interest in thos_limpses which I have occasionally given them of the thoughts and actions of _ery remarkable man that they are not to blame me if I have not shared m_nowledge with them, for I should have considered it my first duty to hav_one so had I not been barred by a positive prohibition from his own lips, which was only withdrawn upon the third of last month.
It can be imagined that my close intimacy with Sherlock Holmes had intereste_e deeply in crime, and that after his disappearance I never failed to rea_ith care the various problems which came before the public, and I eve_ttempted more than once for my own private satisfaction to employ his method_n their solution, though with indifferent success. There was none, however, which appealed to me like this tragedy of Ronald Adair. As I read the evidenc_t the inquest, which led up to a verdict of wilful murder against some perso_r persons unknown, I realised more clearly than I had ever done the los_hich the community had sustained by the death of Sherlock Holmes. There wer_oints about this strange business which would, I was sure, have speciall_ppealed to him, and the efforts of the police would have been supplemented, or more probably anticipated, by the trained observation and the alert mind o_he first criminal agent in Europe. All day as I drove upon my round I turne_ver the case in my mind, and found no explanation which appeared to me to b_dequate. At the risk of telling a twice-told tale I will recapitulate th_acts as they were known to the public at the conclusion of the inquest.
The Honourable Ronald Adair was the second son of the Earl of Maynooth, a_hat time Governor of one of the Australian Colonies. Adair's mother ha_eturned from Australia to undergo the operation for cataract, and she, he_on Ronald, and her daughter Hilda were living together at 427, Park Lane. Th_outh moved in the best society, had, so far as was known, no enemies, and n_articular vices. He had been engaged to Miss Edith Woodley, of Carstairs, bu_he engagement had been broken off by mutual consent some months before, an_here was no sign that it had left any very profound feeling behind it. Fo_he rest the man's life moved in a narrow and conventional circle, for hi_abits were quiet and his nature unemotional. Yet it was upon this easy-goin_oung aristocrat that death came in most strange and unexpected form betwee_he hours of ten and eleven-twenty on the night of March 30th, 1894.
Ronald Adair was fond of cards, playing continually, but never for such stake_s would hurt him. He was a member of the Baldwin, the Cavendish, and th_agatelle card clubs. It was shown that after dinner on the day of his deat_e had played a rubber of whist at the latter club. He had also played ther_n the afternoon. The evidence of those who had played with him — Mr. Murray, Sir John Hardy, and Colonel Moran — showed that the game was whist, and tha_here was a fairly equal fall of the cards. Adair might have lost five pounds, but not more. His fortune was a considerable one, and such a loss could not i_ny way affect him. He had played nearly every day at one club or other, bu_e was a cautious player, and usually rose a winner. It came out in evidenc_hat in partnership with Colonel Moran he had actually won as much as fou_undred and twenty pounds in a sitting some weeks before from Godfrey Milne_nd Lord Balmoral. So much for his recent history, as it came out at th_nquest.
On the evening of the crime he returned from the club exactly at ten. Hi_other and sister were out spending the evening with a relation. The servan_eposed that she heard him enter the front room on the second floor, generall_sed as his sitting-room. She had lit a fire there, and as it smoked she ha_pened the window. No sound was heard from the room until eleven-twenty, th_our of the return of Lady Maynooth and her daughter. Desiring to say good- night, she had attempted to enter her son's room. The door was locked on th_nside, and no answer could be got to their cries and knocking. Help wa_btained and the door forced. The unfortunate young man was found lying nea_he table. His head had been horribly mutilated by an expanding revolve_ullet, but no weapon of any sort was to be found in the room. On the tabl_ay two bank-notes for ten pounds each and seventeen pounds ten in silver an_old, the money arranged in little piles of varying amount. There were som_igures also upon a sheet of paper with the names of some club friend_pposite to them, from which it was conjectured that before his death he wa_ndeavouring to make out his losses or winnings at cards.
A minute examination of the circumstances served only to make the case mor_omplex. In the first place, no reason could be given why the young man shoul_ave fastened the door upon the inside. There was the possibility that th_urderer had done this and had afterwards escaped by the window. The drop wa_t least twenty feet, however, and a bed of crocuses in full bloom la_eneath. Neither the flowers nor the earth showed any sign of having bee_isturbed, nor were there any marks upon the narrow strip of grass whic_eparated the house from the road. Apparently, therefore, it was the young ma_imself who had fastened the door. But how did he come by his death? No on_ould have climbed up to the window without leaving traces. Suppose a man ha_ired through the window, it would indeed be a remarkable shot who could wit_ revolver inflict so deadly a wound. Again, Park Lane is a frequente_horoughfare, and there is a cab-stand within a hundred yards of the house. N_ne had heard a shot. And yet there was the dead man, and there the revolve_ullet, which had mushroomed out, as soft-nosed bullets will, and so inflicte_ wound which must have caused instantaneous death. Such were th_ircumstances of the Park Lane Mystery, which were further complicated b_ntire absence of motive, since, as I have said, young Adair was not known t_ave any enemy, and no attempt had been made to remove the money or valuable_n the room.
All day I turned these facts over in my mind, endeavouring to hit upon som_heory which could reconcile them all, and to find that line of leas_esistance which my poor friend had declared to be the starting-point of ever_nvestigation. I confess that I made little progress. In the evening _trolled across the Park, and found myself about six o'clock at the Oxfor_treet end of Park Lane. A group of loafers upon the pavements, all staring u_t a particular window, directed me to the house which I had come to see. _all, thin man with coloured glasses, whom I strongly suspected of being _lain-clothes detective, was pointing out some theory of his own, while th_thers crowded round to listen to what he said. I got as near him as I could, but his observations seemed to me to be absurd, so I withdrew again in som_isgust. As I did so I struck against an elderly deformed man, who had bee_ehind me, and I knocked down several books which he was carrying. I remembe_hat as I picked them up I observed the title of one of them, "The Origin o_ree Worship," and it struck me that the fellow must be some poor bibliophil_ho, either as a trade or as a hobby, was a collector of obscure volumes. _ndeavoured to apologise for the accident, but it was evident that these book_hich I had so unfortunately maltreated were very precious objects in the eye_f their owner. With a snarl of contempt he turned upon his heel, and I sa_is curved back and white side-whiskers disappear among the throng.
My observations of No. 427, Park Lane did little to clear up the problem i_hich I was interested. The house was separated from the street by a low wal_nd railing, the whole not more than five feet high. It was perfectly easy, therefore, for anyone to get into the garden, but the window was entirel_naccessible, since there was no water-pipe or anything which could help th_ost active man to climb it. More puzzled than ever I retraced my steps t_ensington. I had not been in my study five minutes when the maid entered t_ay that a person desired to see me. To my astonishment it was none other tha_y strange old book-collector, his sharp, wizened face peering out from _rame of white hair, and his precious volumes, a dozen of them at least, wedged under his right arm.
"You're surprised to see me, sir," said he, in a strange, croaking voice.
I acknowledged that I was.
"Well, I've a conscience, sir, and when I chanced to see you go into thi_ouse, as I came hobbling after you, I thought to myself, I'll just step i_nd see that kind gentleman, and tell him that if I was a bit gruff in m_anner there was not any harm meant, and that I am much obliged to him fo_icking up my books."
"You make too much of a trifle," said I. "May I ask how you knew who I was?"
"Well, sir, if it isn't too great a liberty, I am a neighbour of yours, fo_ou'll find my little bookshop at the corner of Church Street, and very happ_o see you, I am sure. Maybe you collect yourself, sir; here's `Britis_irds,' and `Catullus,' and `The Holy War' — a bargain every one of them. Wit_ive volumes you could just fill that gap on that second shelf. It look_ntidy, does it not, sir?"
I moved my head to look at the cabinet behind me. When I turned again Sherloc_olmes was standing smiling at me across my study table. I rose to my feet, stared at him for some seconds in utter amazement, and then it appears that _ust have fainted for the first and the last time in my life. Certainly a gre_ist swirled before my eyes, and when it cleared I found my collar-ends undon_nd the tingling after-taste of brandy upon my lips. Holmes was bending ove_y chair, his flask in his hand.
"My dear Watson," said the well-remembered voice, "I owe you a thousan_pologies. I had no idea that you would be so affected."
I gripped him by the arm.
"Holmes!" I cried. "Is it really you? Can it indeed be that you are alive? I_t possible that you succeeded in climbing out of that awful abyss?"
"Wait a moment," said he. "Are you sure that you are really fit to discus_hings? I have given you a serious shock by my unnecessarily dramati_eappearance."
"I am all right, but indeed, Holmes, I can hardly believe my eyes. Goo_eavens, to think that you — you of all men — should be standing in my study!"
Again I gripped him by the sleeve and felt the thin, sinewy arm beneath it.
"Well, you're not a spirit, anyhow," said I. "My dear chap, I am overjoyed t_ee you. Sit down and tell me how you came alive out of that dreadful chasm."
He sat opposite to me and lit a cigarette in his old nonchalant manner. He wa_ressed in the seedy frock-coat of the book merchant, but the rest of tha_ndividual lay in a pile of white hair and old books upon the table. Holme_ooked even thinner and keener than of old, but there was a dead-white ting_n his aquiline face which told me that his life recently had not been _ealthy one.
"I am glad to stretch myself, Watson," said he. "It is no joke when a tall ma_as to take a foot off his stature for several hours on end. Now, my dea_ellow, in the matter of these explanations we have, if I may ask for your co- operation, a hard and dangerous night's work in front of us. Perhaps it woul_e better if I gave you an account of the whole situation when that work i_inished."
"I am full of curiosity. I should much prefer to hear now."
"You'll come with me to-night?"
"When you like and where you like."
"This is indeed like the old days. We shall have time for a mouthful of dinne_efore we need go. Well, then, about that chasm. I had no serious difficult_n getting out of it, for the very simple reason that I never was in it."
"You never were in it?"
"No, Watson, I never was in it. My note to you was absolutely genuine. I ha_ittle doubt that I had come to the end of my career when I perceived th_omewhat sinister figure of the late Professor Moriarty standing upon th_arrow pathway which led to safety. I read an inexorable purpose in his gre_yes. I exchanged some remarks with him, therefore, and obtained his courteou_ermission to write the short note which you afterwards received. I left i_ith my cigarette-box and my stick and I walked along the pathway, Moriart_till at my heels. When I reached the end I stood at bay. He drew no weapon, but he rushed at me and threw his long arms around me. He knew that his ow_ame was up, and was only anxious to revenge himself upon me. We tottere_ogether upon the brink of the fall. I have some knowledge, however, o_aritsu, or the Japanese system of wrestling, which has more than once bee_ery useful to me. I slipped through his grip, and he with a horrible screa_icked madly for a few seconds and clawed the air with both his hands. But fo_ll his efforts he could not get his balance, and over he went. With my fac_ver the brink I saw him fall for a long way. Then he struck a rock, bounde_ff, and splashed into the water."
I listened with amazement to this explanation, which Holmes delivered betwee_he puffs of his cigarette.
"But the tracks!" I cried. "I saw with my own eyes that two went down the pat_nd none returned."
"It came about in this way. The instant that the Professor had disappeared i_truck me what a really extraordinarily lucky chance Fate had placed in m_ay. I knew that Moriarty was not the only man who had sworn my death. Ther_ere at least three others whose desire for vengeance upon me would only b_ncreased by the death of their leader. They were all most dangerous men. On_r other would certainly get me. On the other hand, if all the world wa_onvinced that I was dead they would take liberties, these men, they would la_hemselves open, and sooner or later I could destroy them. Then it would b_ime for me to announce that I was still in the land of the living. So rapidl_oes the brain act that I believe I had thought this all out before Professo_oriarty had reached the bottom of the Reichenbach Fall.
"I stood up and examined the rocky wall behind me. In your picturesque accoun_f the matter, which I read with great interest some months later, you asser_hat the wall was sheer. This was not literally true. A few small foothold_resented themselves, and there was some indication of a ledge. The cliff i_o high that to climb it all was an obvious impossibility, and it was equall_mpossible to make my way along the wet path without leaving some tracks. _ight, it is true, have reversed my boots, as I have done on simila_ccasions, but the sight of three sets of tracks in one direction woul_ertainly have suggested a deception. On the whole, then, it was best that _hould risk the climb. It was not a pleasant business, Watson. The fall roare_eneath me. I am not a fanciful person, but I give you my word that I seeme_o hear Moriarty's voice screaming at me out of the abyss. A mistake woul_ave been fatal. More than once, as tufts of grass came out in my hand or m_oot slipped in the wet notches of the rock, I thought that I was gone. But _truggled upwards, and at last I reached a ledge several feet deep and covere_ith soft green moss, where I could lie unseen in the most perfect comfort.
There I was stretched when you, my dear Watson, and all your following wer_nvestigating in the most sympathetic and inefficient manner the circumstance_f my death.
"At last, when you had all formed your inevitable and totally erroneou_onclusions, you departed for the hotel and I was left alone. I had imagine_hat I had reached the end of my adventures, but a very unexpected occurrenc_howed me that there were surprises still in store for me. A huge rock, falling from above, boomed past me, struck the path, and bounded over into th_hasm. For an instant I thought that it was an accident; but a moment later, looking up, I saw a man's head against the darkening sky, and another ston_truck the very ledge upon which I was stretched, within a foot of my head. O_ourse, the meaning of this was obvious. Moriarty had not been alone. _onfederate — and even that one glance had told me how dangerous a man tha_onfederate was — had kept guard while the Professor had attacked me. From _istance, unseen by me, he had been a witness of his friend's death and of m_scape. He had waited, and then, making his way round to the top of the cliff, he had endeavoured to succeed where his comrade had failed.
"I did not take long to think about it, Watson. Again I saw that grim fac_ook over the cliff, and I knew that it was the precursor of another stone. _crambled down on to the path. I don't think I could have done it in col_lood. It was a hundred times more difficult than getting up. But I had n_ime to think of the danger, for another stone sang past me as I hung by m_ands from the edge of the ledge. Halfway down I slipped, but by the blessin_f God I landed, torn and bleeding, upon the path. I took to my heels, did te_iles over the mountains in the darkness, and a week later I found myself i_lorence with the certainty that no one in the world knew what had become o_e.
"I had only one confidant — my brother Mycroft. I owe you many apologies, m_ear Watson, but it was all-important that it should be thought I was dead, and it is quite certain that you would not have written so convincing a_ccount of my unhappy end had you not yourself thought that it was true.
Several times during the last three years I have taken up my pen to write t_ou, but always I feared lest your affectionate regard for me should tempt yo_o some indiscretion which would betray my secret. For that reason I turne_way from you this evening when you upset my books, for I was in danger at th_ime, and any show of surprise and emotion upon your part might have draw_ttention to my identity and led to the most deplorable and irreparabl_esults. As to Mycroft, I had to confide in him in order to obtain the mone_hich I needed. The course of events in London did not run so well as I ha_oped, for the trial of the Moriarty gang left two of its most dangerou_embers, my own most vindictive enemies, at liberty. I travelled for two year_n Tibet, therefore, and amused myself by visiting Lhassa and spending som_ays with the head Llama. You may have read of the remarkable explorations o_ Norwegian named Sigerson, but I am sure that it never occurred to you tha_ou were receiving news of your friend. I then passed through Persia, looke_n at Mecca, and paid a short but interesting visit to the Khalifa a_hartoum, the results of which I have communicated to the Foreign Office.
Returning to France I spent some months in a research into the coal-ta_erivatives, which I conducted in a laboratory at Montpelier, in the South o_rance. Having concluded this to my satisfaction, and learning that only on_f my enemies was now left in London, I was about to return when my movement_ere hastened by the news of this very remarkable Park Lane Mystery, which no_nly appealed to me by its own merits, but which seemed to offer some mos_eculiar personal opportunities. I came over at once to London, called in m_wn person at Baker Street, threw Mrs. Hudson into violent hysterics, an_ound that Mycroft had preserved my rooms and my papers exactly as they ha_lways been. So it was, my dear Watson, that at two o'clock to-day I foun_yself in my old arm-chair in my own old room, and only wishing that I coul_ave seen my old friend Watson in the other chair which he has so ofte_dorned."
Such was the remarkable narrative to which I listened on that April evening — a narrative which would have been utterly incredible to me had it not bee_onfirmed by the actual sight of the tall, spare figure and the keen, eage_ace, which I had never thought to see again. In some manner he had learned o_y own sad bereavement, and his sympathy was shown in his manner rather tha_n his words. "Work is the best antidote to sorrow, my dear Watson," said he,
"and I have a piece of work for us both to-night which, if we can bring it t_ successful conclusion, will in itself justify a man's life on this planet."
In vain I begged him to tell me more. "You will hear and see enough befor_orning," he answered. "We have three years of the past to discuss. Let tha_uffice until half-past nine, when we start upon the notable adventure of th_mpty house."
It was indeed like old times when, at that hour, I found myself seated besid_im in a hansom, my revolver in my pocket and the thrill of adventure in m_eart. Holmes was cold and stern and silent. As the gleam of the street-lamp_lashed upon his austere features I saw that his brows were drawn down i_hought and his thin lips compressed. I knew not what wild beast we were abou_o hunt down in the dark jungle of criminal London, but I was well assure_rom the bearing of this master huntsman that the adventure was a most grav_ne, while the sardonic smile which occasionally broke through his asceti_loom boded little good for the object of our quest.
I had imagined that we were bound for Baker Street, but Holmes stopped the ca_t the corner of Cavendish Square. I observed that as he stepped out he gave _ost searching glance to right and left, and at every subsequent street corne_e took the utmost pains to assure that he was not followed. Our route wa_ertainly a singular one. Holmes's knowledge of the byways of London wa_xtraordinary, and on this occasion he passed rapidly, and with an assure_tep, through a network of mews and stables the very existence of which I ha_ever known. We emerged at last into a small road, lined with old, gloom_ouses, which led us into Manchester Street, and so to Blandford Street. Her_e turned swiftly down a narrow passage, passed through a wooden gate into _eserted yard, and then opened with a key the back door of a house. We entere_ogether and he closed it behind us.
The place was pitch-dark, but it was evident to me that it was an empty house.
Our feet creaked and crackled over the bare planking, and my outstretched han_ouched a wall from which the paper was hanging in ribbons. Holmes's cold, thin fingers closed round my wrist and led me forwards down a long hall, unti_ dimly saw the murky fanlight over the door. Here Holmes turned suddenly t_he right, and we found ourselves in a large, square, empty room, heavil_hadowed in the corners, but faintly lit in the centre from the lights of th_treet beyond. There was no lamp near and the window was thick with dust, s_hat we could only just discern each other's figures within. My companion pu_is hand upon my shoulder and his lips close to my ear.
"Do you know where we are?" he whispered.
"Surely that is Baker Street," I answered, staring through the dim window.
"Exactly. We are in Camden House, which stands opposite to our own ol_uarters."
"But why are we here?"
"Because it commands so excellent a view of that picturesque pile. Might _rouble you, my dear Watson, to draw a little nearer to the window, takin_very precaution not to show yourself, and then to look up at our old rooms — the starting-point of so many of our little adventures? We will see if m_hree years of absence have entirely taken away my power to surprise you."
I crept forward and looked across at the familiar window. As my eyes fell upo_t I gave a gasp and a cry of amazement. The blind was down and a strong ligh_as burning in the room. The shadow of a man who was seated in a chair withi_as thrown in hard, black outline upon the luminous screen of the window.
There was no mistaking the poise of the head, the squareness of the shoulders, the sharpness of the features. The face was turned half-round, and the effec_as that of one of those black silhouettes which our grandparents loved t_rame. It was a perfect reproduction of Holmes. So amazed was I that I thre_ut my hand to make sure that the man himself was standing beside me. He wa_uivering with silent laughter.
"Well?" said he.
"Good heavens!" I cried. "It is marvellous."
"I trust that age doth not wither nor custom stale my infinite variety,'" sai_e, and I recognised in his voice the joy and pride which the artist takes i_is own creation. "It really is rather like me, is it not?"
"I should be prepared to swear that it was you."
"The credit of the execution is due to Monsieur Oscar Meunier, of Grenoble, who spent some days in doing the moulding. It is a bust in wax. The rest _rranged myself during my visit to Baker Street this afternoon."
"Because, my dear Watson, I had the strongest possible reason for wishin_ertain people to think that I was there when I was really elsewhere."
"And you thought the rooms were watched?"
"I knew that they were watched."
"By my old enemies, Watson. By the charming society whose leader lies in th_eichenbach Fall. You must remember that they knew, and only they knew, that _as still alive. Sooner or later they believed that I should come back to m_ooms. They watched them continuously, and this morning they saw me arrive."
"How do you know?"
"Because I recognised their sentinel when I glanced out of my window. He is _armless enough fellow, Parker by name, a garroter by trade, and a remarkabl_erformer upon the Jew's harp. I cared nothing for him. But I cared a grea_eal for the much more formidable person who was behind him, the bosom frien_f Moriarty, the man who dropped the rocks over the cliff, the most cunnin_nd dangerous criminal in London. That is the man who is after me to-night, Watson, and that is the man who is quite unaware that we are after him."
My friend's plans were gradually revealing themselves. From this convenien_etreat the watchers were being watched and the trackers tracked. That angula_hadow up yonder was the bait and we were the hunters. In silence we stoo_ogether in the darkness and watched the hurrying figures who passed an_epassed in front of us. Holmes was silent and motionless; but I could tel_hat he was keenly alert, and that his eyes were fixed intently upon th_tream of passers-by. It was a bleak and boisterous night, and the win_histled shrilly down the long street. Many people were moving to and fro, most of them muffled in their coats and cravats. Once or twice it seemed to m_hat I had seen the same figure before, and I especially noticed two men wh_ppeared to be sheltering themselves from the wind in the doorway of a hous_ome distance up the street. I tried to draw my companion's attention to them, but he gave a little ejaculation of impatience and continued to stare into th_treet. More than once he fidgeted with his feet and tapped rapidly with hi_ingers upon the wall. It was evident to me that he was becoming uneasy an_hat his plans were not working out altogether as he had hoped. At last, a_idnight approached and the street gradually cleared, he paced up and down th_oom in uncontrollable agitation. I was about to make some remark to him whe_ raised my eyes to the lighted window and again experienced almost as great _urprise as before. I clutched Holmes's arm and pointed upwards.
"The shadow has moved!" I cried.
It was, indeed, no longer the profile, but the back, which was turned toward_s.
Three years had certainly not smoothed the asperities of his temper or hi_mpatience with a less active intelligence than his own.
"Of course it has moved," said he. "Am I such a farcical bungler, Watson, tha_ should erect an obvious dummy and expect that some of the sharpest men i_urope would be deceived by it? We have been in this room two hours, and Mrs.
Hudson has made some change in that figure eight times, or once in ever_uarter of an hour. She works it from the front so that her shadow may neve_e seen. Ah!" He drew in his breath with a shrill, excited intake. In the di_ight I saw his head thrown forward, his whole attitude rigid with attention.
Outside, the street was absolutely deserted. Those two men might still b_rouching in the doorway, but I could no longer see them. All was still an_ark, save only that brilliant yellow screen in front of us with the blac_igure outlined upon its centre. Again in the utter silence I heard that thin, sibilant note which spoke of intense suppressed excitement. An instant late_e pulled me back into the blackest corner of the room, and I felt his warnin_and upon my lips. The fingers which clutched me were quivering. Never had _nown my friend more moved, and yet the dark street still stretched lonely an_otionless before us.
But suddenly I was aware of that which his keener senses had alread_istinguished. A low, stealthy sound came to my ears, not from the directio_f Baker Street, but from the back of the very house in which we la_oncealed. A door opened and shut. An instant later steps crept down th_assage — steps which were meant to be silent, but which reverberated harshl_hrough the empty house. Holmes crouched back against the wall and I did th_ame, my hand closing upon the handle of my revolver. Peering through th_loom, I saw the vague outline of a man, a shade blacker than the blackness o_he open door. He stood for an instant, and then he crept forward, crouching, menacing, into the room. He was within three yards of us, this siniste_igure, and I had braced myself to meet his spring, before I realised that h_ad no idea of our presence. He passed close beside us, stole over to th_indow, and very softly and noiselessly raised it for half a foot. As he san_o the level of this opening the light of the street, no longer dimmed by th_usty glass, fell full upon his face. The man seemed to be beside himself wit_xcitement. His two eyes shone like stars and his features were workin_onvulsively. He was an elderly man, with a thin, projecting nose, a high, bald forehead, and a huge grizzled moustache. An opera-hat was pushed to th_ack of his head, and an evening dress shirt-front gleamed out through hi_pen overcoat. His face was gaunt and swarthy, scored with deep, savage lines.
In his hand he carried what appeared to be a stick, but as he laid it dow_pon the floor it gave a metallic clang. Then from the pocket of his overcoa_e drew a bulky object, and he busied himself in some task which ended with _oud, sharp click, as if a spring or bolt had fallen into its place. Stil_neeling upon the floor he bent forward and threw all his weight and strengt_pon some lever, with the result that there came a long, whirling, grindin_oise, ending once more in a powerful click. He straightened himself then, an_ saw that what he held in his hand was a sort of gun, with a curiousl_isshapen butt. He opened it at the breech, put something in, and snapped th_reech-block. Then, crouching down, he rested the end of the barrel upon th_edge of the open window, and I saw his long moustache droop over the stoc_nd his eye gleam as it peered along the sights. I heard a little sigh o_atisfaction as he cuddled the butt into his shoulder, and saw that amazin_arget, the black man on the yellow ground, standing clear at the end of hi_ore sight. For an instant he was rigid and motionless. Then his finge_ightened on the trigger. There was a strange, loud whiz and a long, silver_inkle of broken glass. At that instant Holmes sprang like a tiger on to th_arksman's back and hurled him flat upon his face. He was up again in _oment, and with convulsive strength he seized Holmes by the throat; but _truck him on the head with the butt of my revolver and he dropped again upo_he floor. I fell upon him, and as I held him my comrade blew a shrill cal_pon a whistle. There was the clatter of running feet upon the pavement, an_wo policemen in uniform, with one plain-clothes detective, rushed through th_ront entrance and into the room.
"That you, Lestrade?" said Holmes.
"Yes, Mr. Holmes. I took the job myself. It's good to see you back in London, sir."
"I think you want a little unofficial help. Three undetected murders in on_ear won't do, Lestrade. But you handled the Molesey Mystery with less tha_our usual — that's to say, you handled it fairly well."
We had all risen to our feet, our prisoner breathing hard, with a stalwar_onstable on each side of him. Already a few loiterers had begun to collect i_he street. Holmes stepped up to the window, closed it, and dropped th_linds. Lestrade had produced two candles and the policemen had uncovere_heir lanterns. I was able at last to have a good look at our prisoner.
It was a tremendously virile and yet sinister face which was turned toward_s. With the brow of a philosopher above and the jaw of a sensualist below, the man must have started with great capacities for good or for evil. But on_ould not look upon his cruel blue eyes, with their drooping, cynical lids, o_pon the fierce, aggressive nose and the threatening, deep-lined brow, withou_eading Nature's plainest danger-signals. He took no heed of any of us, bu_is eyes were fixed upon Holmes's face with an expression in which hatred an_mazement were equally blended. "You fiend!" he kept on muttering. "Yo_lever, clever fiend!"
"Ah, Colonel!" said Holmes, arranging his rumpled collar; "`journeys end i_overs' meetings,' as the old play says. I don't think I have had the pleasur_f seeing you since you favoured me with those attentions as I lay on th_edge above the Reichenbach Fall."
The Colonel still stared at my friend like a man in a trance. "You cunning, cunning fiend!" was all that he could say.
"I have not introduced you yet," said Holmes. "This, gentlemen, is Colone_ebastian Moran, once of Her Majesty's Indian Army, and the best heavy gam_hot that our Eastern Empire has ever produced. I believe I am correct, Colonel, in saying that your bag of tigers still remains unrivalled?"
The fierce old man said nothing, but still glared at my companion; with hi_avage eyes and bristling moustache he was wonderfully like a tiger himself.
"I wonder that my very simple stratagem could deceive so old a shikari," sai_olmes. "It must be very familiar to you. Have you not tethered a young ki_nder a tree, lain above it with your rifle, and waited for the bait to brin_p your tiger? This empty house is my tree and you are my tiger. You hav_ossibly had other guns in reserve in case there should be several tigers, o_n the unlikely supposition of your own aim failing you. These," he pointe_round, "are my other guns. The parallel is exact."
Colonel Moran sprang forward, with a snarl of rage, but the constables dragge_im back. The fury upon his face was terrible to look at.
"I confess that you had one small surprise for me," said Holmes. "I did no_nticipate that you would yourself make use of this empty house and thi_onvenient front window. I had imagined you as operating from the street, where my friend Lestrade and his merry men were awaiting you. With tha_xception all has gone as I expected."
Colonel Moran turned to the official detective.
"You may or may not have just cause for arresting me," said he, "but at leas_here can be no reason why I should submit to the gibes of this person. If _m in the hands of the law let things be done in a legal way."
"Well, that's reasonable enough," said Lestrade. "Nothing further you have t_ay, Mr. Holmes, before we go?"
Holmes had picked up the powerful air-gun from the floor and was examining it_echanism.
"An admirable and unique weapon," said he, "noiseless and of tremendous power.
I knew Von Herder, the blind German mechanic, who constructed it to the orde_f the late Professor Moriarty. For years I have been aware of its existence, though I have never before had the opportunity of handling it. I commend i_ery specially to your attention, Lestrade, and also the bullets which fi_t."
"You can trust us to look after that, Mr. Holmes," said Lestrade, as the whol_arty moved towards the door. "Anything further to say?"
"Only to ask what charge you intend to prefer?"
"What charge, sir? Why, of course, the attempted murder of Mr. Sherloc_olmes."
"Not so, Lestrade. I do not propose to appear in the matter at all. To you, and to you only, belongs the credit of the remarkable arrest which you hav_ffected. Yes, Lestrade, I congratulate you! With your usual happy mixture o_unning and audacity you have got him."
"Got him! Got whom, Mr. Holmes?"
"The man that the whole force has been seeking in vain — Colonel Sebastia_oran, who shot the Honourable Ronald Adair with an expanding bullet from a_ir-gun through the open window of the second-floor front of No. 427, Par_ane, upon the 30th of last month. That's the charge, Lestrade. And now, Watson, if you can endure the draught from a broken window, I think that hal_n hour in my study over a cigar may afford you some profitable amusement."
Our old chambers had been left unchanged through the supervision of Mycrof_olmes and the immediate care of Mrs. Hudson. As I entered I saw, it is true, an unwonted tidiness, but the old landmarks were all in their place. Ther_ere the chemical corner and the acid-stained, deal-topped table. There upon _helf was the row of formidable scrap-books and books of reference which man_f our fellow-citizens would have been so glad to burn. The diagrams, th_iolin-case, and the pipe-rack — even the Persian slipper which contained th_obacco — all met my eyes as I glanced round me. There were two occupants o_he room — one Mrs. Hudson, who beamed upon us both as we entered; the othe_he strange dummy which had played so important a part in the evening'_dventures. It was a wax-coloured model of my friend, so admirably done tha_t was a perfect facsimile. It stood on a small pedestal table with an ol_ressing-gown of Holmes's so draped round it that the illusion from the stree_as absolutely perfect.
"I hope you preserved all precautions, Mrs. Hudson?" said Holmes.
"I went to it on my knees, sir, just as you told me."
"Excellent. You carried the thing out very well. Did you observe where th_ullet went?"
"Yes, sir. I'm afraid it has spoilt your beautiful bust, for it passed righ_hrough the head and flattened itself on the wall. I picked it up from th_arpet. Here it is!"
Holmes held it out to me. "A soft revolver bullet, as you perceive, Watson.
There's genius in that, for who would expect to find such a thing fired fro_n air-gun. All right, Mrs. Hudson, I am much obliged for your assistance. An_ow, Watson, let me see you in your old seat once more, for there are severa_oints which I should like to discuss with you."
He had thrown off the seedy frock-coat, and now he was the Holmes of old i_he mouse-coloured dressing-gown which he took from his effigy.
"The old shikari's nerves have not lost their steadiness nor his eyes thei_eenness," said he, with a laugh, as he inspected the shattered forehead o_is bust.
"Plumb in the middle of the back of the head and smack through the brain. H_as the best shot in India, and I expect that there are few better in London.
Have you heard the name?"
"No, I have not."
"Well, well, such is fame! But, then, if I remember aright, you had not hear_he name of Professor James Moriarty, who had one of the great brains of th_entury. Just give me down my index of biographies from the shelf."
He turned over the pages lazily, leaning back in his chair and blowing grea_louds from his cigar.
"My collection of M's is a fine one," said he. "Moriarty himself is enough t_ake any letter illustrious, and here is Morgan the poisoner, and Merridew o_bominable memory, and Mathews, who knocked out my left canine in the waiting- room at Charing Cross, and, finally, here is our friend of to-night."
He handed over the book, and I read: "Moran, Sebastian, Colonel. Unemployed.
Formerly 1st Bengalore Pioneers. Born London, 1840. Son of Sir Augustus Moran, C.B., once British Minister to Persia. Educated Eton and Oxford. Served i_owaki Campaign, Afghan Campaign, Charasiab (despatches), Sherpur, and Cabul.
Author of `Heavy Game of the Western Himalayas,' 1881; `Three Months in th_ungle,' 1884. Address: Conduit Street. Clubs: The Anglo-Indian, th_ankerville, the Bagatelle Card Club."
On the margin was written, in Holmes's precise hand: "The second mos_angerous man in London."
"This is astonishing," said I, as I handed back the volume. "The man's caree_s that of an honourable soldier."
"It is true," Holmes answered. "Up to a certain point he did well. He wa_lways a man of iron nerve, and the story is still told in India how h_rawled down a drain after a wounded man-eating tiger. There are some trees, Watson, which grow to a certain height and then suddenly develop som_nsightly eccentricity. You will see it often in humans. I have a theory tha_he individual represents in his development the whole procession of hi_ncestors, and that such a sudden turn to good or evil stands for some stron_nfluence which came into the line of his pedigree. The person becomes, as i_ere, the epitome of the history of his own family."
"It is surely rather fanciful."
"Well, I don't insist upon it. Whatever the cause, Colonel Moran began to g_rong. Without any open scandal he still made India too hot to hold him. H_etired, came to London, and again acquired an evil name. It was at this tim_hat he was sought out by Professor Moriarty, to whom for a time he was chie_f the staff. Moriarty supplied him liberally with money and used him only i_ne or two very high-class jobs which no ordinary criminal could hav_ndertaken. You may have some recollection of the death of Mrs. Stewart, o_auder, in 1887. Not? Well, I am sure Moran was at the bottom of it; bu_othing could be proved. So cleverly was the Colonel concealed that even whe_he Moriarty gang was broken up we could not incriminate him. You remember a_hat date, when I called upon you in your rooms, how I put up the shutters fo_ear of air-guns? No doubt you thought me fanciful. I knew exactly what I wa_oing, for I knew of the existence of this remarkable gun, and I knew als_hat one of the best shots in the world would be behind it. When we were i_witzerland he followed us with Moriarty, and it was undoubtedly he who gav_e that evil five minutes on the Reichenbach ledge.
"You may think that I read the papers with some attention during my sojourn i_rance, on the look-out for any chance of laying him by the heels. So long a_e was free in London my life would really not have been worth living. Nigh_nd day the shadow would have been over me, and sooner or later his chanc_ust have come. What could I do? I could not shoot him at sight, or I shoul_yself be in the dock. There was no use appealing to a magistrate. They canno_nterfere on the strength of what would appear to them to be a wild suspicion.
So I could do nothing. But I watched the criminal news, knowing that sooner o_ater I should get him. Then came the death of this Ronald Adair. My chanc_ad come at last! Knowing what I did, was it not certain that Colonel Mora_ad done it? He had played cards with the lad; he had followed him home fro_he club; he had shot him through the open window. There was not a doubt o_t. The bullets alone are enough to put his head in a noose. I came over a_nce. I was seen by the sentinel, who would, I knew, direct the Colonel'_ttention to my presence. He could not fail to connect my sudden return wit_is crime and to be terribly alarmed. I was sure that he would make an attemp_o get me out of the way at once, and would bring round his murderous weapo_or that purpose. I left him an excellent mark in the window, and, havin_arned the police that they might be needed — by the way, Watson, you spotte_heir presence in that doorway with unerring accuracy — I took up what seeme_o me to be a judicious post for observation, never dreaming that he woul_hoose the same spot for his attack. Now, my dear Watson, does anything remai_or me to explain?"
"Yes," said I. "You have not made it clear what was Colonel Moran's motive i_urdering the Honourable Ronald Adair."
"Ah! my dear Watson, there we come into those realms of conjecture where th_ost logical mind may be at fault. Each may form his own hypothesis upon th_resent evidence, and yours is as likely to be correct as mine."
"You have formed one, then?"
"I think that it is not difficult to explain the facts. It came out i_vidence that Colonel Moran and young Adair had between them won _onsiderable amount of money. Now, Moran undoubtedly played foul — of that _ave long been aware. I believe that on the day of the murder Adair ha_iscovered that Moran was cheating. Very likely he had spoken to hi_rivately, and had threatened to expose him unless he voluntarily resigned hi_embership of the club and promised not to play cards again. It is unlikel_hat a youngster like Adair would at once make a hideous scandal by exposing _ell-known man so much older than himself. Probably he acted as I suggest. Th_xclusion from his clubs would mean ruin to Moran, who lived by his ill-gotte_ard gains. He therefore murdered Adair, who at the time was endeavouring t_ork out how much money he should himself return, since he could not profit b_is partner's foul play. He locked the door lest the ladies should surpris_im and insist upon knowing what he was doing with these names and coins. Wil_t pass?"
"I have no doubt that you have hit upon the truth."
"It will be verified or disproved at the trial. Meanwhile, come what may, Colonel Moran will trouble us no more, the famous air-gun of Von Herder wil_mbellish the Scotland Yard Museum, and once again Mr. Sherlock Holmes is fre_o devote his life to examining those interesting little problems which th_omplex life of London so plentifully presents."