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The Return of Sherlock Holmes

The Return of Sherlock Holmes

Arthur Conan Doyle

Update: 2020-04-22

Chapter 1 The Adventure of the Empty House

  • 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it my first duty to hav_one so had I not been barred by a positive prohibition from his own lips, which was only withdrawn upon the third of last month.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."
  • "But why?"
  • "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 whom?"
  • "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."