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Chapter 6 The Adventure of Black Peter

  • I have never known my friend to be in better form, both mental and physical, than in the year '95. His increasing fame had brought with it an immens_ractice, and I should be guilty of an indiscretion if I were even to hint a_he identity of some of the illustrious clients who crossed our humbl_hreshold in Baker Street. Holmes, however, like all great artists, lived fo_is art's sake, and, save in the case of the Duke of Holdernesse, I hav_eldom known him claim any large reward for his inestimable services. S_nworldly was he — or so capricious — that he frequently refused his help t_he powerful and wealthy where the problem made no appeal to his sympathies, while he would devote weeks of most intense application to the affairs of som_umble client whose case presented those strange and dramatic qualities whic_ppealed to his imagination and challenged his ingenuity.
  • In this memorable year '95 a curious and incongruous succession of cases ha_ngaged his attention, ranging from his famous investigation of the sudde_eath of Cardinal Tosca — an inquiry which was carried out by him at th_xpress desire of His Holiness the Pope — down to his arrest of Wilson, th_otorious canary-trainer, which removed a plague-spot from the East-End o_ondon. Close on the heels of these two famous cases came the tragedy o_oodman's Lee, and the very obscure circumstances which surrounded the deat_f Captain Peter Carey. No record of the doings of Mr. Sherlock Holmes woul_e complete which did not include some account of this very unusual affair.
  • During the first week of July my friend had been absent so often and so lon_rom our lodgings that I knew he had something on hand. The fact that severa_ough-looking men called during that time and inquired for Captain Basil mad_e understand that Holmes was working somewhere under one of the numerou_isguises and names with which he concealed his own formidable identity. H_ad at least five small refuges in different parts of London in which he wa_ble to change his personality. He said nothing of his business to me, and i_as not my habit to force a confidence. The first positive sign which he gav_e of the direction which his investigation was taking was an extraordinar_ne. He had gone out before breakfast, and I had sat down to mine, when h_trode into the room, his hat upon his head and a huge barbed-headed spea_ucked like an umbrella under his arm.
  • "Good gracious, Holmes!" I cried. "You don't mean to say that you have bee_alking about London with that thing?"
  • "I drove to the butcher's and back."
  • "The butcher's?"
  • "And I return with an excellent appetite. There can be no question, my dea_atson, of the value of exercise before breakfast. But I am prepared to be_hat you will not guess the form that my exercise has taken."
  • "I will not attempt it."
  • He chuckled as he poured out the coffee.
  • "If you could have looked into Allardyce's back shop you would have seen _ead pig swung from a hook in the ceiling, and a gentleman in his shirt- sleeves furiously stabbing at it with this weapon. I was that energeti_erson, and I have satisfied myself that by no exertion of my strength can _ransfix the pig with a single blow. Perhaps you would care to try?"
  • "Not for worlds. But why were you doing this?"
  • "Because it seemed to me to have an indirect bearing upon the mystery o_oodman's Lee. Ah, Hopkins, I got your wire last night, and I have bee_xpecting you. Come and join us."
  • Our visitor was an exceedingly alert man, thirty years of age, dressed in _uiet tweed suit, but retaining the erect bearing of one who was accustomed t_fficial uniform. I recognised him at once as Stanley Hopkins, a young polic_nspector for whose future Holmes had high hopes, while he in turn professe_he admiration and respect of a pupil for the scientific methods of the famou_mateur. Hopkins's brow was clouded, and he sat down with an air of dee_ejection.
  • "No, thank you, sir. I breakfasted before I came round. I spent the night i_own, for I came up yesterday to report."
  • "And what had you to report?"
  • "Failure, sir; absolute failure."
  • "You have made no progress?"
  • "None."
  • "Dear me! I must have a look at the matter."
  • "I wish to heavens that you would, Mr. Holmes. It's my first big chance, and _m at my wit's end. For goodness' sake come down and lend me a hand."
  • "Well, well, it just happens that I have already read all the availabl_vidence, including the report of the inquest, with some care. By the way, what do you make of that tobacco-pouch found on the scene of the crime? I_here no clue there?"
  • Hopkins looked surprised.
  • "It was the man's own pouch, sir. His initials were inside it. And it was o_eal-skin — and he an old sealer."
  • "But he had no pipe."
  • "No, sir, we could find no pipe; indeed, he smoked very little. And yet h_ight have kept some tobacco for his friends."
  • "No doubt. I only mention it because if I had been handling the case I shoul_ave been inclined to make that the starting-point of my investigation.
  • However, my friend Dr. Watson knows nothing of this matter, and I should b_one the worse for hearing the sequence of events once more. Just give us som_hort sketch of the essentials."
  • Stanley Hopkins drew a slip of paper from his pocket.
  • "I have a few dates here which will give you the career of the dead man, Captain Peter Carey. He was born in '45 — fifty years of age. He was a mos_aring and successful seal and whale fisher. In 1883 he commanded the stea_ealer SEA UNICORN, of Dundee. He had then had several successful voyages i_uccession, and in the following year, 1884, he retired. After that h_ravelled for some years, and finally he bought a small place called Woodman'_ee, near Forest Row, in Sussex. There he has lived for six years, and ther_e died just a week ago to-day.
  • "There were some most singular points about the man. In ordinary life he was _trict Puritan — a silent, gloomy fellow. His household consisted of his wife, his daughter, aged twenty, and two female servants. These last wer_ontinually changing, for it was never a very cheery situation, and sometime_t became past all bearing. The man was an intermittent drunkard, and when h_ad the fit on him he was a perfect fiend. He has been known to drive his wif_nd his daughter out of doors in the middle of the night, and flog the_hrough the park until the whole village outside the gates was aroused b_heir screams.
  • "He was summoned once for a savage assault upon the old vicar, who had calle_pon him to remonstrate with him upon his conduct. In short, Mr. Holmes, yo_ould go far before you found a more dangerous man than Peter Carey, and _ave heard that he bore the same character when he commanded his ship. He wa_nown in the trade as Black Peter, and the name was given him, not only o_ccount of his swarthy features and the colour of his huge beard, but for th_umours which were the terror of all around him. I need not say that he wa_oathed and avoided by every one of his neighbours, and that I have not hear_ne single word of sorrow about his terrible end.
  • "You must have read in the account of the inquest about the man's cabin, Mr.
  • Holmes; but perhaps your friend here has not heard of it. He had built himsel_ wooden outhouse — he always called it `the cabin' — a few hundred yards fro_is house, and it was here that he slept every night. It was a little, single- roomed hut, sixteen feet by ten. He kept the key in his pocket, made his ow_ed, cleaned it himself, and allowed no other foot to cross the threshold.
  • There are small windows on each side, which were covered by curtains and neve_pened. One of these windows was turned towards the high road, and when th_ight burned in it at night the folk used to point it out to each other an_onder what Black Peter was doing in there. That's the window, Mr. Holmes, which gave us one of the few bits of positive evidence that came out at th_nquest.
  • "You remember that a stonemason, named Slater, walking from Forest Row abou_ne o'clock in the morning — two days before the murder — stopped as he passe_he grounds and looked at the square of light still shining among the trees.
  • He swears that the shadow of a man's head turned sideways was clearly visibl_n the blind, and that this shadow was certainly not that of Peter Carey, who_e knew well. It was that of a bearded man, but the beard was short an_ristled forwards in a way very different from that of the captain. So h_ays, but he had been two hours in the public-house, and it is some distanc_rom the road to the window. Besides, this refers to the Monday, and the crim_as done upon the Wednesday.
  • "On the Tuesday Peter Carey was in one of his blackest moods, flushed wit_rink and as savage as a dangerous wild beast. He roamed about the house, an_he women ran for it when they heard him coming. Late in the evening he wen_own to his own hut. About two o'clock the following morning his daughter, wh_lept with her window open, heard a most fearful yell from that direction, bu_t was no unusual thing for him to bawl and shout when he was in drink, so n_otice was taken. On rising at seven one of the maids noticed that the door o_he hut was open, but so great was the terror which the man caused that it wa_idday before anyone would venture down to see what had become of him. Peepin_nto the open door they saw a sight which sent them flying with white face_nto the village. Within an hour I was on the spot and had taken over th_ase.
  • "Well, I have fairly steady nerves, as you know, Mr. Holmes, but I give you m_ord that I got a shake when I put my head into that little house. It wa_roning like a harmonium with the flies and bluebottles, and the floor an_alls were like a slaughter-house. He had called it a cabin, and a cabin i_as sure enough, for you would have thought that you were in a ship. There wa_ bunk at one end, a sea-chest, maps and charts, a picture of the SEA UNICORN, a line of log-books on a shelf, all exactly as one would expect to find it i_ captain's room. And there in the middle of it was the man himself, his fac_wisted like a lost soul in torment, and his great brindled beard stuc_pwards in his agony. Right through his broad breast a steel harpoon had bee_riven, and it had sunk deep into the wood of the wall behind him. He wa_inned like a beetle on a card. Of course, he was quite dead, and had been s_rom the instant that he had uttered that last yell of agony.
  • "I know your methods, sir, and I applied them. Before I permitted anything t_e moved I examined most carefully the ground outside, and also the floor o_he room. There were no footmarks."
  • "Meaning that you saw none?"
  • "I assure you, sir, that there were none."
  • "My good Hopkins, I have investigated many crimes, but I have never yet see_ne which was committed by a flying creature. As long as the criminal remain_pon two legs so long must there be some indentation, some abrasion, som_rifling displacement which can be detected by the scientific searcher. It i_ncredible that this blood-bespattered room contained no trace which coul_ave aided us. I understand, however, from the inquest that there were som_bjects which you failed to overlook?"
  • The young inspector winced at my companion's ironical comments.
  • "I was a fool not to call you in at the time, Mr. Holmes. However, that's pas_raying for now. Yes, there were several objects in the room which called fo_pecial attention. One was the harpoon with which the deed was committed. I_ad been snatched down from a rack on the wall. Two others remained there, an_here was a vacant place for the third. On the stock was engraved `Ss. SE_NICORN, Dundee.' This seemed to establish that the crime had been done in _oment of fury, and that the murderer had seized the first weapon which cam_n his way. The fact that the crime was committed at two in the morning, an_et Peter Carey was fully dressed, suggested that he had an appointment wit_he murderer, which is borne out by the fact that a bottle of rum and tw_irty glasses stood upon the table."
  • "Yes," said Holmes; "I think that both inferences are permissible. Was ther_ny other spirit but rum in the room?"
  • "Yes; there was a tantalus containing brandy and whisky on the sea-chest. I_s of no importance to us, however, since the decanters were full, and it ha_herefore not been used."
  • "For all that its presence has some significance," said Holmes. "However, le_s hear some more about the objects which do seem to you to bear upon th_ase."
  • "There was this tobacco-pouch upon the table."
  • "What part of the table?"
  • "It lay in the middle. It was of coarse seal-skin — the straight-haired skin, with a leather thong to bind it. Inside was `P.C.' on the flap. There was hal_n ounce of strong ship's tobacco in it."
  • "Excellent! What more?"
  • Stanley Hopkins drew from his pocket a drab-covered note-book. The outside wa_ough and worn, the leaves discoloured. On the first page were written th_nitials "J.H.N." and the date "1883." Holmes laid it on the table an_xamined it in his minute way, while Hopkins and I gazed over each shoulder.
  • On the second page were the printed letters "C.P.R.," and then came severa_heets of numbers. Another heading was Argentine, another Costa Rica, an_nother San Paulo, each with pages of signs and figures after it.
  • "What do you make of these?" asked Holmes.
  • "They appear to be lists of Stock Exchange securities. I thought that `J.H.N.'
  • were the initials of a broker, and that `C.P.R.' may have been his client."
  • "Try Canadian Pacific Railway," said Holmes.
  • Stanley Hopkins swore between his teeth and struck his thigh with his clenche_and.
  • "What a fool I have been!" he cried. "Of course, it is as you say. Then `J.H.N.' are the only initials we have to solve. I have already examined th_ld Stock Exchange lists, and I can find no one in 1883 either in the House o_mong the outside brokers whose initials correspond with these. Yet I fee_hat the clue is the most important one that I hold. You will admit, Mr.
  • Holmes, that there is a possibility that these initials are those of th_econd person who was present — in other words, of the murderer. I would als_rge that the introduction into the case of a document relating to larg_asses of valuable securities gives us for the first time some indication of _otive for the crime."
  • Sherlock Holmes's face showed that he was thoroughly taken aback by this ne_evelopment.
  • "I must admit both your points," said he. "I confess that this note-book, which did not appear at the inquest, modifies any views which I may hav_ormed. I had come to a theory of the crime in which I can find no place fo_his. Have you endeavoured to trace any of the securities here mentioned?"
  • "Inquiries are now being made at the offices, but I fear that the complet_egister of the stockholders of these South American concerns is in Sout_merica, and that some weeks must elapse before we can trace the shares."
  • Holmes had been examining the cover of the note-book with his magnifying lens.
  • "Surely there is some discoloration here," said he.
  • "Yes, sir, it is a blood-stain. I told you that I picked the book off th_loor."
  • "Was the blood-stain above or below?"
  • "On the side next the boards."
  • "Which proves, of course, that the book was dropped after the crime wa_ommitted."
  • "Exactly, Mr. Holmes. I appreciated that point, and I conjectured that it wa_ropped by the murderer in his hurried flight. It lay near the door."
  • "I suppose that none of these securities have been found among the property o_he dead man?"
  • "No, sir."
  • "Have you any reason to suspect robbery?"
  • "No, sir. Nothing seemed to have been touched."
  • "Dear me, it is certainly a very interesting case. Then there was a knife, wa_here not?"
  • "A sheath-knife, still in its sheath. It lay at the feet of the dead man. Mrs.
  • Carey has identified it as being her husband's property."
  • Holmes was lost in thought for some time.
  • "Well," said he, at last, "I suppose I shall have to come out and have a loo_t it."
  • Stanley Hopkins gave a cry of joy.
  • "Thank you, sir. That will indeed be a weight off my mind."
  • Holmes shook his finger at the inspector.
  • "It would have been an easier task a week ago," said he. "But even now m_isit may not be entirely fruitless. Watson, if you can spare the time _hould be very glad of your company. If you will call a four-wheeler, Hopkins, we shall be ready to start for Forest Row in a quarter of an hour."
  • Alighting at the small wayside station, we drove for some miles through th_emains of widespread woods, which were once part of that great forest whic_or so long held the Saxon invaders at bay — the impenetrable "weald," fo_ixty years the bulwark of Britain. Vast sections of it have been cleared, fo_his is the seat of the first iron-works of the country, and the trees hav_een felled to smelt the ore. Now the richer fields of the North have absorbe_he trade, and nothing save these ravaged groves and great scars in the eart_how the work of the past. Here in a clearing upon the green slope of a hil_tood a long, low stone house, approached by a curving drive running throug_he fields. Nearer the road, and surrounded on three sides by bushes, was _mall outhouse, one window and the door facing in our direction. It was th_cene of the murder!
  • Stanley Hopkins led us first to the house, where he introduced us to _aggard, grey-haired woman, the widow of the murdered man, whose gaunt an_eep-lined face, with the furtive look of terror in the depths of her red- rimmed eyes, told of the years of hardship and ill-usage which she ha_ndured. With her was her daughter, a pale, fair-haired girl, whose eye_lazed defiantly at us as she told us that she was glad that her father wa_ead, and that she blessed the hand which had struck him down. It was _errible household that Black Peter Carey had made for himself, and it wa_ith a sense of relief that we found ourselves in the sunlight again an_aking our way along a path which had been worn across the fields by the fee_f the dead man.
  • The outhouse was the simplest of dwellings, wooden-walled, shingle-roofed, on_indow beside the door and one on the farther side. Stanley Hopkins drew th_ey from his pocket, and had stooped to the lock, when he paused with a loo_f attention and surprise upon his face.
  • "Someone has been tampering with it," he said.
  • There could be no doubt of the fact. The woodwork was cut and the scratche_howed white through the paint, as if they had been that instant done. Holme_ad been examining the window.
  • "Someone has tried to force this also. Whoever it was has failed to make hi_ay in. He must have been a very poor burglar."
  • "This is a most extraordinary thing," said the inspector; "I could swear tha_hese marks were not here yesterday evening."
  • "Some curious person from the village, perhaps," I suggested.
  • "Very unlikely. Few of them would dare to set foot in the grounds, far les_ry to force their way into the cabin. What do you think of it, Mr. Holmes?"
  • "I think that fortune is very kind to us."
  • "You mean that the person will come again?"
  • "It is very probable. He came expecting to find the door open. He tried to ge_n with the blade of a very small penknife. He could not manage it. What woul_e do?"
  • "Come again next night with a more useful tool."
  • "So I should say. It will be our fault if we are not there to receive him.
  • Meanwhile, let me see the inside of the cabin."
  • The traces of the tragedy had been removed, but the furniture within th_ittle room still stood as it had been on the night of the crime. For tw_ours, with most intense concentration, Holmes examined every object in turn, but his face showed that his quest was not a successful one. Once only h_aused in his patient investigation.
  • "Have you taken anything off this shelf, Hopkins?"
  • "No; I have moved nothing."
  • "Something has been taken. There is less dust in this corner of the shelf tha_lsewhere. It may have been a book lying on its side. It may have been a box.
  • Well, well, I can do nothing more. Let us walk in these beautiful woods, Watson, and give a few hours to the birds and the flowers. We shall meet yo_ere later, Hopkins, and see if we can come to closer quarters with th_entleman who has paid this visit in the night."
  • It was past eleven o'clock when we formed our little ambuscade. Hopkins wa_or leaving the door of the hut open, but Holmes was of the opinion that thi_ould rouse the suspicions of the stranger. The lock was a perfectly simpl_ne, and only a strong blade was needed to push it back. Holmes also suggeste_hat we should wait, not inside the hut, but outside it among the bushes whic_rew round the farther window. In this way we should be able to watch our ma_f he struck a light, and see what his object was in this stealthy nocturna_isit.
  • It was a long and melancholy vigil, and yet brought with it something of th_hrill which the hunter feels when he lies beside the water pool and waits fo_he coming of the thirsty beast of prey. What savage creature was it whic_ight steal upon us out of the darkness? Was it a fierce tiger of crime, whic_ould only be taken fighting hard with flashing fang and claw, or would i_rove to be some skulking jackal, dangerous only to the weak and unguarded?
  • In absolute silence we crouched amongst the bushes, waiting for whatever migh_ome. At first the steps of a few belated villagers, or the sound of voice_rom the village, lightened our vigil; but one by one these interruptions die_way and an absolute stillness fell upon us, save for the chimes of th_istant church, which told us of the progress of the night, and for the rustl_nd whisper of a fine rain falling amid the foliage which roofed us in.
  • Half-past two had chimed, and it was the darkest hour which precedes the dawn, when we all started as a low but sharp click came from the direction of th_ate. Someone had entered the drive. Again there was a long silence, and I ha_egun to fear that it was a false alarm, when a stealthy step was heard upo_he other side of the hut, and a moment later a metallic scraping an_linking. The man was trying to force the lock! This time his skill wa_reater or his tool was better, for there was a sudden snap and the creak o_he hinges. Then a match was struck, and next instant the steady light from _andle filled the interior of the hut. Through the gauze curtain our eyes wer_ll riveted upon the scene within.
  • The nocturnal visitor was a young man, frail and thin, with a black moustach_hich intensified the deadly pallor of his face. He could not have been muc_bove twenty years of age. I have never seen any human being who appeared t_e in such a pitiable fright, for his teeth were visibly chattering and he wa_haking in every limb. He was dressed like a gentleman, in Norfolk jacket an_nickerbockers, with a cloth cap upon his head. We watched him staring roun_ith frightened eyes. Then he laid the candle-end upon the table an_isappeared from our view into one of the corners. He returned with a larg_ook, one of the log-books which formed a line upon the shelves. Leaning o_he table he rapidly turned over the leaves of this volume until he came t_he entry which he sought. Then, with an angry gesture of his clenched hand, he closed the book, replaced it in the corner, and put out the light. He ha_ardly turned to leave the hut when Hopkins's hand was on the fellow's collar, and I heard his loud gasp of terror as he understood that he was taken. Th_andle was re-lit, and there was our wretched captive shivering and cowerin_n the grasp of the detective. He sank down upon the sea-chest, and looke_elplessly from one of us to the other.
  • "Now, my fine fellow," said Stanley Hopkins, "who are you, and what do yo_ant here?"
  • The man pulled himself together and faced us with an effort at self-composure.
  • "You are detectives, I suppose?" said he. "You imagine I am connected with th_eath of Captain Peter Carey. I assure you that I am innocent."
  • "We'll see about that," said Hopkins. "First of all, what is your name?"
  • "It is John Hopley Neligan."
  • I saw Holmes and Hopkins exchange a quick glance.
  • "What are you doing here?"
  • "Can I speak confidentially?"
  • "No, certainly not."
  • "Why should I tell you?"
  • "If you have no answer it may go badly with you at the trial."
  • The young man winced.
  • "Well, I will tell you," he said. "Why should I not? And yet I hate to thin_f this old scandal gaining a new lease of life. Did you ever hear of Dawso_nd Neligan?"
  • I could see from Hopkins's face that he never had; but Holmes was keenl_nterested.
  • "You mean the West-country bankers," said he. "They failed for a million, ruined half the county families of Cornwall, and Neligan disappeared."
  • "Exactly. Neligan was my father."
  • At last we were getting something positive, and yet it seemed a long ga_etween an absconding banker and Captain Peter Carey pinned against the wal_ith one of his own harpoons. We all listened intently to the young man'_ords.
  • "It was my father who was really concerned. Dawson had retired. I was only te_ears of age at the time, but I was old enough to feel the shame and horror o_t all. It has always been said that my father stole all the securities an_led. It is not true. It was his belief that if he were given time in which t_ealise them all would be well and every creditor paid in full. He started i_is little yacht for Norway just before the warrant was issued for his arrest.
  • I can remember that last night when he bade farewell to my mother. He left u_ list of the securities he was taking, and he swore that he would come bac_ith his honour cleared, and that none who had trusted him would suffer. Well, no word was ever heard from him again. Both the yacht and he vanished utterly.
  • We believed, my mother and I, that he and it, with the securities that he ha_aken with him, were at the bottom of the sea. We had a faithful friend, however, who is a business man, and it was he who discovered some time ag_hat some of the securities which my father had with him have reappeared o_he London market. You can imagine our amazement. I spent months in trying t_race them, and at last, after many doublings and difficulties, I discovere_hat the original seller had been Captain Peter Carey, the owner of this hut.
  • "Naturally, I made some inquiries about the man. I found that he had been i_ommand of a whaler which was due to return from the Arctic seas at the ver_ime when my father was crossing to Norway. The autumn of that year was _tormy one, and there was a long succession of southerly gales. My father'_acht may well have been blown to the north, and there met by Captain Pete_arey's ship. If that were so, what had become of my father? In any case, if _ould prove from Peter Carey's evidence how these securities came on th_arket it would be a proof that my father had not sold them, and that he ha_o view to personal profit when he took them.
  • "I came down to Sussex with the intention of seeing the captain, but it was a_his moment that his terrible death occurred. I read at the inquest _escription of his cabin, in which it stated that the old log-books of hi_essel were preserved in it. It struck me that if I could see what occurred i_he month of August, 1883, on board the SEA UNICORN, I might settle th_ystery of my father's fate. I tried last night to get at these log-books, bu_as unable to open the door. To-night I tried again, and succeeded; but I fin_hat the pages which deal with that month have been torn from the book. It wa_t that moment I found myself a prisoner in your hands."
  • "Is that all?" asked Hopkins.
  • "Yes, that is all." His eyes shifted as he said it.
  • "You have nothing else to tell us?"
  • He hesitated.
  • "No; there is nothing."
  • "You have not been here before last night?"
  • "No."
  • "Then how do you account for THAT?" cried Hopkins, as he held up the damnin_ote-book, with the initials of our prisoner on the first leaf and the blood- stain on the cover.
  • The wretched man collapsed. He sank his face in his hands and trembled al_ver.
  • "Where did you get it?" he groaned. "I did not know. I thought I had lost i_t the hotel."
  • "That is enough," said Hopkins, sternly. "Whatever else you have to say yo_ust say in court. You will walk down with me now to the police-station. Well, Mr. Holmes, I am very much obliged to you and to your friend for coming dow_o help me. As it turns out your presence was unnecessary, and I would hav_rought the case to this successful issue without you; but none the less I a_ery grateful. Rooms have been reserved for you at the Brambletye Hotel, so w_an all walk down to the village together."
  • "Well, Watson, what do you think of it?" asked Holmes, as we travelled bac_ext morning.
  • "I can see that you are not satisfied."
  • "Oh, yes, my dear Watson, I am perfectly satisfied. At the same time Stanle_opkins's methods do not commend themselves to me. I am disappointed i_tanley Hopkins. I had hoped for better things from him. One should alway_ook for a possible alternative and provide against it. It is the first rul_f criminal investigation."
  • "What, then, is the alternative?"
  • "The line of investigation which I have myself been pursuing. It may give u_othing. I cannot tell. But at least I shall follow it to the end."
  • Several letters were waiting for Holmes at Baker Street. He snatched one o_hem up, opened it, and burst out into a triumphant chuckle of laughter.
  • "Excellent, Watson. The alternative develops. Have you telegraph forms? Jus_rite a couple of messages for me: `Sumner, Shipping Agent, Ratcliff Highway.
  • Send three men on, to arrive ten to-morrow morning. — Basil.' That's my nam_n those parts. The other is: `Inspector Stanley Hopkins, 46, Lord Street, Brixton. Come breakfast to-morrow at nine-thirty. Important. Wire if unable t_ome. — Sherlock Holmes.' There, Watson, this infernal case has haunted me fo_en days. I hereby banish it completely from my presence. To-morrow I trus_hat we shall hear the last of it for ever."
  • Sharp at the hour named Inspector Stanley Hopkins appeared, and we sat dow_ogether to the excellent breakfast which Mrs. Hudson had prepared. The youn_etective was in high spirits at his success.
  • "You really think that your solution must be correct?" asked Holmes.
  • "I could not imagine a more complete case."
  • "It did not seem to me conclusive."
  • "You astonish me, Mr. Holmes. What more could one ask for?"
  • "Does your explanation cover every point?"
  • "Undoubtedly. I find that young Neligan arrived at the Brambletye Hotel on th_ery day of the crime. He came on the pretence of playing golf. His room wa_n the ground-floor, and he could get out when he liked. That very night h_ent down to Woodman's Lee, saw Peter Carey at the hut, quarrelled with him, and killed him with the harpoon. Then, horrified by what he had done, he fle_ut of the hut, dropping the note-book which he had brought with him in orde_o question Peter Carey about these different securities. You may hav_bserved that some of them were marked with ticks, and the others — the grea_ajority — were not. Those which are ticked have been traced on the Londo_arket; but the others presumably were still in the possession of Carey, an_oung Neligan, according to his own account, was anxious to recover them i_rder to do the right thing by his father's creditors. After his flight he di_ot dare to approach the hut again for some time; but at last he force_imself to do so in order to obtain the information which he needed. Surel_hat is all simple and obvious?"
  • Holmes smiled and shook his head.
  • "It seems to me to have only one drawback, Hopkins, and that is that it i_ntrinsically impossible. Have you tried to drive a harpoon through a body?
  • No? Tut, tut, my dear sir, you must really pay attention to these details. M_riend Watson could tell you that I spent a whole morning in that exercise. I_s no easy matter, and requires a strong and practised arm. But this blow wa_elivered with such violence that the head of the weapon sank deep into th_all. Do you imagine that this anaemic youth was capable of so frightful a_ssault? Is he the man who hobnobbed in rum and water with Black Peter in th_ead of the night? Was it his profile that was seen on the blind two night_efore? No, no, Hopkins; it is another and a more formidable person for who_e must seek."
  • The detective's face had grown longer and longer during Holmes's speech. Hi_opes and his ambitions were all crumbling about him. But he would not abando_is position without a struggle.
  • "You can't deny that Neligan was present that night, Mr. Holmes. The book wil_rove that. I fancy that I have evidence enough to satisfy a jury, even if yo_re able to pick a hole in it. Besides, Mr. Holmes, I have laid my hand upo_Y man. As to this terrible person of yours, where is he?"
  • "I rather fancy that he is on the stair," said Holmes, serenely. "I think, Watson, that you would do well to put that revolver where you can reach it."
  • He rose, and laid a written paper upon a side-table. "Now we are ready," sai_e.
  • There had been some talking in gruff voices outside, and now Mrs. Hudso_pened the door to say that there were three men inquiring for Captain Basil.
  • "Show them in one by one," said Holmes.
  • The first who entered was a little ribston-pippin of a man, with ruddy cheek_nd fluffy white side-whiskers. Holmes had drawn a letter from his pocket.
  • "What name?" he asked.
  • "James Lancaster."
  • "I am sorry, Lancaster, but the berth is full. Here is half a sovereign fo_our trouble. Just step into this room and wait there for a few minutes."
  • The second man was a long, dried-up creature, with lank hair and sallo_heeks. His name was Hugh Pattins. He also received his dismissal, his half- sovereign, and the order to wait.
  • The third applicant was a man of remarkable appearance. A fierce bull-dog fac_as framed in a tangle of hair and beard, and two bold dark eyes gleame_ehind the cover of thick, tufted, overhung eyebrows. He saluted and stoo_ailor-fashion, turning his cap round in his hands.
  • "Your name?" asked Holmes.
  • "Patrick Cairns."
  • "Harpooner?"
  • "Yes, sir. Twenty-six voyages."
  • "Dundee, I suppose?"
  • "Yes, sir."
  • "And ready to start with an exploring ship?"
  • "Yes, sir."
  • "What wages?"
  • "Eight pounds a month."
  • "Could you start at once?"
  • "As soon as I get my kit."
  • "Have you your papers?"
  • "Yes, sir." He took a sheaf of worn and greasy forms from his pocket. Holme_lanced over them and returned them.
  • "You are just the man I want," said he. "Here's the agreement on the side- table. If you sign it the whole matter will be settled."
  • The seaman lurched across the room and took up the pen.
  • "Shall I sign here?" he asked, stooping over the table.
  • Holmes leaned over his shoulder and passed both hands over his neck.
  • "This will do," said he.
  • I heard a click of steel and a bellow like an enraged bull. The next instan_olmes and the seaman were rolling on the ground together. He was a man o_uch gigantic strength that, even with the handcuffs which Holmes had s_eftly fastened upon his wrists, he would have very quickly overpowered m_riend had Hopkins and I not rushed to his rescue. Only when I pressed th_old muzzle of the revolver to his temple did he at last understand tha_esistance was vain. We lashed his ankles with cord and rose breathless fro_he struggle.
  • "I must really apologise, Hopkins," said Sherlock Holmes; "I fear that th_crambled eggs are cold. However, you will enjoy the rest of your breakfas_ll the better, will you not, for the thought that you have brought your cas_o a triumphant conclusion."
  • Stanley Hopkins was speechless with amazement.
  • "I don't know what to say, Mr. Holmes," he blurted out at last, with a ver_ed face. "It seems to me that I have been making a fool of myself from th_eginning. I understand now, what I should never have forgotten, that I am th_upil and you are the master. Even now I see what you have done, but I don'_now how you did it, or what it signifies."
  • "Well, well," said Holmes, good-humouredly. "We all learn by experience, an_our lesson this time is that you should never lose sight of the alternative.
  • You were so absorbed in young Neligan that you could not spare a thought t_atrick Cairns, the true murderer of Peter Carey."
  • The hoarse voice of the seaman broke in on our conversation.
  • "See here, mister," said he, "I make no complaint of being man-handled in thi_ashion, but I would have you call things by their right names. You say _urdered Peter Carey; I say I Killed Peter Carey, and there's all th_ifference. Maybe you don't believe what I say. Maybe you think I am jus_linging you a yarn."
  • "Not at all," said Holmes. "Let us hear what you have to say."
  • "It's soon told, and, by the Lord, every word of it is truth. I knew Blac_eter, and when he pulled out his knife I whipped a harpoon through him sharp, for I knew that it was him or me. That's how he died. You can call it murder.
  • Anyhow, I'd as soon die with a rope round my neck as with Black Peter's knif_n my heart."
  • "How came you there?" asked Holmes.
  • "I'll tell it you from the beginning. Just sit me up a little so as I ca_peak easy. It was in '83 that it happened — August of that year. Peter Care_as master of the SEA UNICORN, and I was spare harpooner. We were coming ou_f the ice-pack on our way home, with head winds and a week's southerly gale, when we picked up a little craft that had been blown north. There was one ma_n her — a landsman. The crew had thought she would founder, and had made fo_he Norwegian coast in the dinghy. I guess they were all drowned. Well, w_ook him on board, this man, and he and the skipper had some long talks in th_abin. All the baggage we took off with him was one tin box. So far as I know, the man's name was never mentioned, and on the second night he disappeared a_f he had never been. It was given out that he had either thrown himsel_verboard or fallen overboard in the heavy weather that we were having. Onl_ne man knew what had happened to him, and that was me, for with my own eyes _aw the skipper tip up his heels and put him over the rail in the middle watc_f a dark night, two days before we sighted the Shetland lights.
  • "Well, I kept my knowledge to myself and waited to see what would come of it.
  • When we got back to Scotland it was easily hushed up, and nobody asked an_uestions. A stranger died by an accident, and it was nobody's business t_nquire. Shortly after Peter Carey gave up the sea, and it was long year_efore I could find where he was. I guessed that he had done the deed for th_ake of what was in that tin box, and that he could afford now to pay me wel_or keeping my mouth shut.
  • "I found out where he was through a sailor man that had met him in London, an_own I went to squeeze him. The first night he was reasonable enough, and wa_eady to give me what would make me free of the sea for life. We were to fi_t all two nights later. When I came I found him three parts drunk and in _ile temper. We sat down and we drank and we yarned about old times, but th_ore he drank the less I liked the look on his face. I spotted that harpoo_pon the wall, and I thought I might need it before I was through. Then a_ast he broke out at me, spitting and cursing, with murder in his eyes and _reat clasp-knife in his hand. He had not time to get it from the sheat_efore I had the harpoon through him. Heavens! what a yell he gave; and hi_ace gets between me and my sleep! I stood there, with his blood splashin_ound me, and I waited for a bit; but all was quiet, so I took heart onc_ore. I looked round, and there was the tin box on a shelf. I had as muc_ight to it as Peter Carey, anyhow, so I took it with me and left the hut.
  • Like a fool I left my baccy-pouch upon the table.
  • "Now I'll tell you the queerest part of the whole story. I had hardly go_utside the hut when I heard someone coming, and I hid among the bushes. A ma_ame slinking along, went into the hut, gave a cry as if he had seen a ghost, and legged it as hard as he could run until he was out of sight. Who he was o_hat he wanted is more than I can tell. For my part I walked ten miles, got _rain at Tunbridge Wells, and so reached London, and no one the wiser.
  • "Well, when I came to examine the box I found there was no money in it, an_othing but papers that I would not dare to sell. I had lost my hold on Blac_eter, and was stranded in London without a shilling. There was only my trad_eft. I saw these advertisements about harpooners and high wages, so I went t_he shipping agents, and they sent me here. That's all I know, and I say agai_hat if I killed Black Peter the law should give me thanks, for I saved the_he price of a hempen rope."
  • "A very clear statement," said Holmes, rising and lighting his pipe. "I think, Hopkins, that you should lose no time in conveying your prisoner to a place o_afety. This room is not well adapted for a cell, and Mr. Patrick Cairn_ccupies too large a proportion of our carpet."
  • "Mr. Holmes," said Hopkins, "I do not know how to express my gratitude. Eve_ow I do not understand how you attained this result."
  • "Simply by having the good fortune to get the right clue from the beginning.
  • It is very possible if I had known about this note-book it might have led awa_y thoughts, as it did yours. But all I heard pointed in the one direction.
  • The amazing strength, the skill in the use of the harpoon, the rum and water, the seal-skin tobacco-pouch, with the coarse tobacco — all these pointed to _eaman, and one who had been a whaler. I was convinced that the initials `P.C.' upon the pouch were a coincidence, and not those of Peter Carey, sinc_e seldom smoked, and no pipe was found in his cabin. You remember that _sked whether whisky and brandy were in the cabin. You said they were. Ho_any landsmen are there who would drink rum when they could get these othe_pirits? Yes, I was certain it was a seaman."
  • "And how did you find him?"
  • "My dear sir, the problem had become a very simple one. If it were a seaman, it could only be a seaman who had been with him on the Sea Unicorn. So far a_ could learn he had sailed in no other ship. I spent three days in wiring t_undee, and at the end of that time I had ascertained the names of the crew o_he Sea Unicorn in 1883. When I found Patrick Cairns among the harpooners m_esearch was nearing its end. I argued that the man was probably in London, and that he would desire to leave the country for a time. I therefore spen_ome days in the East-end, devised an Arctic expedition, put forth temptin_erms for harpooners who would serve under Captain Basil — and behold th_esult!"
  • "Wonderful!" cried Hopkins. "Wonderful!"
  • "You must obtain the release of young Neligan as soon as possible," sai_olmes. "I confess that I think you owe him some apology. The tin box must b_eturned to him, but, of course, the securities which Peter Carey has sold ar_ost for ever. There's the cab, Hopkins, and you can remove your man. If yo_ant me for the trial, my address and that of Watson will be somewhere i_orway — I'll send particulars later."