It was in the spring of the year 1894 that all London was interested,
and the fashionable world dismayed. by the murder of the Honourable Ronald
Adair under most unusual and inexplicable circumstances. The public has
already learned those particulars of the crime which came out in the
po]ice investigation, but a good deal was suppressed upon that occasion,
since the case for the prosecution was so overwhelmingly strong that it
was not necessary to bring forward all the facts. Only now, at the end of
nearly ten years, am I allowed to supply those missing links which make up
the whole of that remarkable chain. The crime was of interest in itself,
but that interest was as nothing to me compared to the inconceivable
sequel, which afforded me the greatest shock and surprise of any event in
my adventurous life. Even now, after this long interval, I find myself
thrilling as I think of it, and feeling once more that sudden flood of
joy, amazement, and incredulity which utterly submerged my mind. Let me
say to that public, which has shown some interest in those glimpses which
I have occasionally given them of the thoughts and actions of a very
remarkable man, that they are not to blame me if I have not shared my
knowledge with them, for I should have considered it my first duty to do
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which was only withdrawn upon the third of last month.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
interested me deeply in crime, and that after his disappearance I never
failed to read with care the various problems which came before the
public. And I even attempted, more than once, for my own private
satisfaction, to employ his methods in their solution, though with
indifferent success. There was none, however, which appealed to me like
this tragedy of Ronald Adair. As I read the evidence at the inquest, which
led up to a verdict of wilful murder against some person or persons un-
known, I realized more clearly than I had ever done the loss which the
community had sustained by the death of Sherlock Holmes. There were points
about this strange business which would, I was sure, have specially
appealed to him, and the efforts of the police would have been
supplemented, or more probably anticipated. by the trained observation and
the alert mind of the first criminal agent in Europe. All day. as I drove
upon my round, I turned over the case in my mind and found no explanation
which appeared to me to be adequate. At the risk of telling a twice-told
tale. I will recapitulate the facts 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, at that time governor of one of the Australian colonies. Adair's
mother had returned from Australia to undergo the operation for cataract,
and she, her son Ronald, and her daughter Hilda were living together at
427 Park Lane. The youth moved in the best society had, so far as was
known, no enemies and no particular vices. He had been engaged to Miss
Edith Woodley, of Carstairs, but the engagement had been broken off by
mutual consent some months before, and there was no sign that it had left
any very profound feeling behind it. For the rest of the man's life moved
in a narrow and conventional circle, for his habits were quiet and his
nature unemotional. Yet it was upon this easy-going young aristocrat that
death came, in most strange and unexpected form, between the hours of ten
and eleven-twenty on the night of March 30, 1894.
Ronald Adair was fond of cards playing continually, but never for
such stakes as would hurt him. He was a member of the Baldwin, the
Cavendish, and the Bagatelle card clubs. It was shown that, after dinner
on the day of his death, he had played a rubber of whist at the latter
club. He had also played there in 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 that there 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 in any way affect him.
He had played nearly every day at one club or other, but he was a cautious
player, and usually rose a winner. It came out in evidence that, in
partnership with Colonel Moran, he had actually won as much as four
hundred and twenty pounds in a sitting, some weeks before, from Godfrey
Milner and Lord Balmoral. So much for his recent history as it came out at
On the evening of the crime, he returned from the club exactly at
ten. His mother and sister were out spending the evening with a relation.
The servant deposed that she heard him enter the front room on the second
floor, generally used as his sitting-room. She had lit a fire there, and
as it smoked she had opened the window. No sound was heard from the room
until eleven-twenty, the hour of the return of Lady Maynooth and her
daughter. Desiring to say good-night, she attempted to enter her son's
room. The door was locked on the inside, and no answer could be got to
their cries and knocking. Help was obtained, and the door forced. The
unfortunate young man was found lying near the table. His head had been
horribly mutilated by an expanding revolver bullet, but no weapon of any
sort was to be found in the room. On the table lay two banknotes for ten
pounds each and seventeen pounds ten in silver and gold, the money
arranged in little piles of varying amount. There were some figures also
upon a sheet of paper, with the names of some club friends opposite to
them, from which it was conjectured that before his death he was endeav-
ouring to make out his losses or winnings at cards.
A minute examination of the circumstances served only to make the
case more complex. In the first place, no reason could be given why the
young man should have fastened the door upon the inside. There was the
possibility that the murderer had done this, and had afterwards escaped by
the window. The drop was at least twenty feet, however, and a bed of
crocuses in full bloom lay beneath. Neither the flowers nor the earth
showed any sign of having been disturbed, nor were there any marks upon
the narrow strip of grass which separated the house from the road.
Apparently, therefore, it was the young man himself who had fastened the
door. But how did he come by his death? No one could have climbed up to
the window without leaving traces. Suppose a man had fired through the
window, he would indeed be a remarkable shot who could with a revolver
inflict so deadly a wound. Again, Park Lane is a frequented thoroughfare;
there is a cab stand within a hundred yards of the house. No one had heard
a shot. And yet there was the dead man, and there the revolver bullet,
which had mushroomed out, as soft-nosed bullets will, and so inflicted a
wound which must have caused instantaneous death. Such were the
circumstances of the Park Lane Mystery, which were further complicated by
entire absence of motive, since, as I have said, young Adair was not known
to have any enemy, and no attempt had been made to remove the money or
valuables in the room.
All day I turned these facts over in my mind, endeavouring to hit
some theory which could reconcile them all, and to find that line of least
resistance which my poor friend had declared to be the starting-point of
every investigation. I confess that I made little progress. In the evening
I strolled across the Park, and found myself about six o'clock at the
Oxford Street end of Park Lane. A group of loafers upon the pavements, all
staring up at a particular window, directed me to the house which I had
come to see. A tall, thin man with coloured glasses, whom I strongly
suspected of being a plain-clothes detective, was pointing out some theory
of his own, while the others 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 some disgust. As I did so I struck against
an elderly, deformed man, who had been behind me, and I knocked down
several books which he was carrying. I remember that as I picked them up,
I observed the title of one of them, The Origin of Tree Worship, and it
struck me that the fellow must be some poor bibliophile, who, either as a
trade or as a hobby, was a collector of obscure volumes. I endeavoured to
apologize for the accident, but it was evident that these books which I
had so unfortunately maltreated were very precious objects in the eyes of
their owner. With a snarl of contempt he turned upon his heel, and I saw
his curved back and white side-whiskers disappear among the throng.
My observations of No. 427 Park Lane did little to clear up the
problem in which I was interested. The house was separated from the street
by a low wall and 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 entirely inaccessible, since there was no waterpipe or anything
which could help the most active man to climb it. More puzzled than ever,
I retraced my steps to Kensington. I had not been in my study five minutes
when the maid entered to say that a person desired to see me. To my
astonishment it was none other than my strange old book collector, his
sharp, wizened face peering out from a frame 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
I acknowledged that I was.
"Well, I've a conscience, sir, and when I chanced to see you go into
this house, as I came hobbling after you, I thought to myself, I'll just
step in and see that kind gentleman, and tell him that if I was a bit
gruff in my manner there was not any harm meant, and that I am much
obliged to him for picking up my books."
"You make too much of a trifle," said I. "May I ask how you knew who
"Well, sir, if it isn't too great a liberty, I am a neighbour of
yours, for you'll find my little bookshop at the corner of Church Street,
and very happy to see you, I am sure. Maybe you collect yourself, sir.
Here's British Birds, and Catullus, and The Holy War a bargain, every
one of them. With five volumes you could just fill that gap on that second
shelf. It looks untidy, does it not, sir?"
I moved my head to look at the cabinet behind me. When I turned
again, Sherlock Holmes 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 I must have fainted for the first and the last time
in my life. Certainly a gray mist swirled before my eyes, and when it
cleared I found my collarends undone and the tingling after-taste of
brandy upon my lips. Holmes was bending over my chair, his flask in his
"My dear Watson," said the well-remembered voice, "I owe you a
thousand apologies. I had no idea that you would be so affected."
I gripped him by the arms.
"Holmes!" I cried. "Is it really you? Can it indeed be that you are
alive? Is it possible that you succeeded in climbing out of that awful
"Wait a moment," said he. "Are you sure that you are really fit to
discuss things? I have given you a serious shock by my unnecessarily
"I am all right, but indeed, Holmes, I can hardly believe my eyes.
Good heavens! 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'm overjoyed to see 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 was dressed in the seedy frockcoat of the book merchant, but
the rest of that individual lay in a pile of white hair and old books upon
the table. Holmes looked even thinner and keener than of old, but there
was a dead-white tinge in his aquiline face which told me that his life
recently had not been a healthy one.
"I am glad to stretch myself, Watson," said he. "It is no joke when a
tall man has to take a foot off his stature for several hours on end. Now,
my dear fellow, in the matter of these explanations, we have, if I may ask
for your cooperation, a hard and dangerous night's work in front of us.
Perhaps it would be better if I gave you an account of the whole situation
when that work is finished."
"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 dinner before we need go. Well, then, about that chasm. I had
no serious difficulty in 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 had little doubt that I had come to the end of my career when I
perceived the somewhat sinister figure of the late Professor Moriarty
standing upon the narrow pathway which led to safety. I read an inexorable
purpose in his gray eyes. I exchanged some remarks with him, therefore,
and obtained his courteous permission to write the short note which you
after-wards received. I left it with my cigarette-box and my stick, and I
walked along the pathway, Moriarty still 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 own game was up, and was only
anxious to revenge himself upon me. We tottered together upon the brink of
the fall. I have some knowledge, however, of baritsu, or the Japanese
system of wrestling, which has more than once been very useful to me. I
slipped through his grip, and he with a horrible scream kicked madly for a
few seconds, and clawed the air with both his hands. But for all his
efforts he could not get his balance, and over he went. With my face over
the brink, I saw him fall for a long way. Then he struck a rock, bounded
off, and splashed into the water."
I listened with amazement to this explanation, which Holmes delivered
between the puffs of his cigarette.
"But the tracks!" I cried. "I saw, with my own eyes, that two went
down the path and none returned."
"It came about in this way. The instant that the Professor had
disappeared, it struck me what a really extraordinarily lucky chance Fate
had placed in my way. I knew that Moriarty was not the only man who had
sworn my death. There were at least three others whose desire for
vengeance upon me would only be increased by the death of their leader.
They were all most dangerous men. One or other would certainly get me. On
the other hand. if all the world was convinced that I was dead they would
take liberties, these men, they would soon lay themselves open, and sooner
or later I could destroy them. Then it would be time for me to announce
that I was still in the land of the living. So rapidly does the brain act
that I believe I had thought this all out before Professor Moriarty had
reached the bottom of the Reichenbach Fall.
"I stood up and examined the rocky wall behind me. In your
picturesque account of the matter, which I read with great interest some
months later, you assert that the wall was sheer. That was not literally
true. A few small footholds presented them-selves, and there was some
indication of a ledge. The cliff is so high that to climb it all was an
obvious impossibility, and it was equally impossible to make my way along
the wet path without leaving some tracks. I might, it is true, have
reversed my boots, as I have done on similar occasions, but the sight of
three sets of tracks in one direction would certainly have suggested a
deception. On the whole, then, it was best that I should risk the climb.
It was not a pleasant business, Watson. The fall roared beneath me. I am
not a fanciful person, but I give you my word that I seemed to hear
Moriarty's voice screaming at me out of the abyss. A mistake would have
been fatal. More than once, as tufts of grass came out in my hand or my
foot slipped in the wet notches of the rock, I thought that I was gone.
But I struggled upward, and at last I reached a ledge several feet deep
and covered with 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 were investigating in the most sympathetic and inefficient
manner the circumstances of my death.
"At last, when you had all formed your inevitable and totally
erroneous conclusions, you departed for the hotel, and I was left alone. l
had imagined that I had reached the end of my adventures, but a very
unexpected occurrence showed 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 the chasm. 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 stone struck the very ledge upon which I was
stretched, within a foot of my head. Of course, the meaning of this was
obvious. Moriarty had not been alone. A confederate and even that one
glance had told me how dangerous a man that confederate was had kept
guard while the Profcssor had attacked me. From a distance, unseen by me,
he had been a witness of his friend's death and of my escape. 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
face look over the cliff, and I knew that it was the precursor of another
stone. I scrambled down on to the path. I don't think I could have done it
in cold blood. It was a hundred times more difficult than getting up. But
I had no time to think of the danger, for another stone sang past me as I
hung by my hands from the edge of the ledge. Halfway down I slipped, but,
by the blessing of God, I landed, torn and bleeding, upon the path. I took
to my heels, did ten miles over the mountains in the darkness, and a week
later I found myself in Florence, with the certainty that no one in the
world knew what had become of me.
"I had only one confidant my brother Mycroft. I owe you many
apologies, my dear 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 an account 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 to you, but always I feared lest your
affectionate regard for me should tempt you to some indiscretion which
would betray my secret. For that reason I turned away from you this
evening when you upset my books, for I was in danger at the time, and any
show of surprise and emotion upon your part might have drawn attention to
my identity and led to the most deplorable and irreparable results. As to
Mycroft, I had to confide in him in order to obtain the money which I
needed. The course of events in London did not run so well as I had hoped,
for the trial of the Moriarty gang left two of its most dangerous members,
my own most vindictive enemies, at liberty. I travelled for two years in
Tibet, therefore, and amused myself by visiting Lhassa, and spending some
days with the head lama. You may have read of the remarkable explorations
of a Norwegian named Sigerson, but I am sure that it never occurred to you
that you were receiving news of your friend. I then passed through Persia,
looked in at Mecca, and paid a short but interesting visit to the Khalifa
at Khartoum, the results of which I have communicated to the Foreign
Office. Returning to France, I spent some months in a research into the
coal-tar derivatives, which I conducted in a laboratory at Montpellier, in
the south of France. Having concluded this to my satisfaction and learning
that only one of my enemies was now left in London, I was about to return
when my movements were hastened by the news of this very remarkable Park
Lane Mystery, which not only appealed to me by its own merits. but which
seemed to offer some most peculiar personal opportunities. I came over at
once to London, called in my own person at Baker Street. threw Mrs. Hudson
into violent hysterics, and found that Mycroft had preserved my rooms and
my papers exactly as they had always been. So it was, my dear Watson that
at two o'clock to-day I found myself in my old armchair in my own old
room, and only wishing that I could have seen my old friend Watson in the
other chair which he has so often adorned."
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 been confirmed by the actual sight of the tall, spare figure and
the keen, eager face, which I had never thought to see again. In some
manner he had learned of my own sad bereavement, and his sympathy was
shown in his manner rather than in 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 to a 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 before morning," he answered.
"We have three years of the past to discuss. Let that suffice until
half-past nine, when we start upon the notable adventure of the empty
It was indeed like old times when, at that hour, I found myself
seated beside him in a hansom, my revolver in my pocket, and the thrill of
adventure in my heart. Holmes was cold and stern and silent. As the gleam
of the street-lamps flashed upon his austere features, I saw that his
brows were drawn down in thought and his thin lips compressed. I knew not
what wild beast we were about to hunt down in the dark jungle of criminal
London, but I was well assured, from the bearing of this master huntsman,
that the adventure was a most grave one while the sardonic smile which
occasionally broke through his ascetic gloom boded little good for the
object of our quest.
I had imagined that we were bound for Baker Street, but Holmes
stopped the cab at the corner of Cavendish Square. I observed that as he
stepped out he gave a most searching glance to right and left, and at
every subsequent street corner he took the utmost pains to assure that he
was not followed. Our route was certainly a singular one. Holmes's
knowledge of the byways of London was extraordinary, and on this occasion
he passed rapidly and with an assured step through a network of mews and
stables, the very existence of which I had never known. We emerged at last
into a small road, lined with old, gloomy houses. which led us into
Manchester Street, and so to Blandford Street. Here he turned swiftly down
a narrow passage, passed through a wooden gate into a deserted yard, and
then opened with a key the back door of a house. We entered together, 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 hand touched a wall from which the paper was hanging in
ribbons. Holmes's cold, thin fingers closed round my wrist and led me
forward down a long hall, until I dimly saw the murky fanlight over the
door. Here Holmes turned suddenly to the right, and we found ourselves in
a large, square, empty room, heavily shadowed in the corners, but faintly
lit in the centre from the lights of the street beyond. There was no lamp
near, and the window was thick with dust, so that we could only just
discern each other's figures within. My companion put his 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
"Exactly. We are in Camden House, which stands opposite to our own
"But why are we here?"
"Because it commands so excellent a view of that picturesque pile.
Might I trouble you, my dear Watson, to draw a little nearer to the
window, taking every precaution not to show yourself, and then to look up
at our old rooms the starting-point of so many of your little
fairy-tales? We will see if my three 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 upon it, I gave a gasp and a cry of amazement. The blind was down,
and a strong light was burning in the room. The shadow of a man who was
seated in a chair within was 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 effect was that of one of those black
silhouettes which our grandparents loved to frame. It was a perfect
reproduction of Holmes. So amazed was I that I threw out my hand to make
sure that the man himself was standing beside me. He was quivering with
"Well?" said he.
"Good hcavens!" I cried. "It is marvellous."
"I trust that age doth not wither nor custom stale my infinite
variety," said he, and I recognized in his voice the joy and pride which
the artist takes in his own creation. "It really is rather like me, is it
"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 I arranged myself during my visit to Baker Street this
"Because, my dear Watson, I had the strongest possible reason for
wishing certain people to think that I was there when I was really
"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 the Reichenbach Fall. You must remember that they knew, and only they
knew, that I was still alive. Sooner or later they believed that I should
come back to my rooms. They watched them continuously, and this morning
they saw me arrive."
"How do you know?"
"Because I recognized their sentinel when I glanced out of my window.
He is a harmless enough fellow, Parker by name, a garroter by trade, and a
remarkable performer upon the jew'sharp. I cared nothing for him. But I
cared a great deal for the much more formidable person who was behind him,
the bosom friend of Moriarty, the man who dropped the rocks over the cliff
the most cunning and 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 themselvcs. From this
convenient retreat, the watchers were being watched and the trackers
tracked. That angular shadow up yonder was the bait. and we were the
hunters. In silence we stood together in the darkness and watched the
hurrying figures who passed and repassed in front of us. Holmes was silent
and motionless; but I could tell that he was keenly alert, and that his
eyes were fixed intently upon the stream of passers-by. It was a bleak and
boisterous night, and the wind whistled 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 me that I had seen the same figure
before, and I especially noticed two men who appeared to be sheltering
themselves from the wind in the doorway of a house some 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 the street.
More than once he fidgeted with his feet and tapped rapidly with his
fingers upon the wall. It was evident to me that he was becoming uneasy,
and that his plans were not working out altogether as he had hoped. At
last, as midnight approached and the street gradually cleared, he paced up
and down the room in uncontrollable agitation. I was about to make some
remark to him, when I raised my eyes to the lighted window, and again
experienced almost as great a surprise as before. I clutched Holmes's arm,
and pointed upward.
"The shadow has moved!" I cried.
It was indeed no longer the profile, but the back, which was turned
Three years had certainly not smoothed the asperities of his temper
or his impatience with a less active intelligence than his own.
"Of course it has moved," said he. "Am I such a farcical bungler,
Watson, that I should erect an obvious dummy, and expect that some of the
sharpest men in Europe 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 every quarter of an hour. She works it from the front,
so that her shadow may never be seen. Ah!" He drew in his breath with a
shrill, excited intake. In the dim light I saw his head thrown forward,
his whole attitude rigid with attention. Outside the street was absolutely
deserted. Those two men might still be crouching in the doorway, but I
could no longer see them. All was still and dark, save only that brilliant
yellow screen in front of us with the black figure outlined upon its
centre. Again in the utter silence I heard that thin, sibilant note which
spoke of intense suppressed excitement. An instant later he pulled me back
into the blackest corner of the room. and I felt his warning hand upon my
lips. The fingers which clutched me were quivering. Never had I known my
friend more moved, and yet the dark street still stretched lonely and
motionless before us.
But suddenly I was aware of that which his keener senses had already
distinguished. A low, stealthy sound came to my ears, not from the
direction of Baker Street, but from the back of the very house in which we
lay concealed. A door opened and shut. An instant later steps crept down
the passage steps which were meant to be silent, but which reverberated
harshly through the empty house. Holmes crouched back against the wall,
and I did the same, my hand closing upon the handle of my revolver.
Peering through the gloom, I saw the vague outline of a man, a shade
blacker than the blackness of the 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 sinister figure, and I had braced myself to meet
his spring, before I realized that he had no idea of our presence. He
passed close beside us, stole over to the window, and very softly and
noiselessly raised it for half a foot. As he sank to the level of this
opening, the light of the street, no longer dimmed by the dusty glass,
fell full upon his face. The man seemed to be beside himself with
excitement. His two eyes shone like stars, and his features were working
convul-sively. 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 the back of his head, and an evening dress shirt-front gleamed
out through his open 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 down upon the floor it gave a metallic clang. Then from
the pocket of his overcoat he drew a bulky object, and he busied himself
in some task which ended with a loud, sharp click, as if a spring or bolt
had fallen into its place. Still kneeling upon the floor he bent forward
and threw all his weight and strength upon some lever with the result that
there came a long, whirling, grinding noise, ending once more in a
powerful click. He straightened himself then, and I saw that what he held
in his hand was a sort of gun, with a curiously misshapen butt. He opened
it at the breech, put something in, and snapped the breech-lock. Then,
crouching down, he rested the end of the barrel upon the ledge of the open
window, and I saw his long moustache droop over the stock and his eye
gleam as it peered along the sights. I heard a little sigh of satisfaction
as he cuddled the butt into his shoulder, and saw that amazing target, the
black man on the yellow ground, standing clear at the end of his
foresight. For an instant he was rigid and motionless. Then his finger
tightened on the trigger. There was a strange, loud whiz and a long,
silvery tinkle of broken glass. At that instant Holmes sprang like a tiger
on to the marksman's back, and hurled him flat upon his face. He was up
again in a moment, and with convulsive strength he seized Holmes by the
throat, but I struck him on the head with the butt of my revolver, and he
dropped again upon the floor. I fell upon him, and as I held him my
comrade blew a shrill call upon a whistle. There was the clatter of
running feet upon the pavement, and two policemen in uniform, with one
plain-clothes detective, rushed through the front entrance and into the
"That you, Lestrade?" said Holmes.
"Yes, Mr. Holmes. I took the job myself. It's good to see you back in
"I think you want a little unofficial help. Three undetected murders
in one year won't do, Lestrade. But you handled the Molesey Mystery with
less than your usual that's to say, you handled it fairly well."
We had all risen to our feet, our prisoner breathing hard, with a
stalwart constable on each side of him. Already a few loiterers had begun
to collect in the street. Holmes stepped up to the window, closed it, and
dropped the blinds. Lestrade had produced two candles, and the policemen
had uncovered their lanterns. I was able at last to have a good look at
It was a tremendously virile and yet sinister face which was turned
towards us. 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 one could not look upon his cruel blue eyes, with their
drooping, cynical lids, or upon the fierce, aggressive nose and the
threatening, deep-lined brow, without reading Nature's plainest
danger-signals. He took no heed of any of us, but his eyes were fixed upon
Holmes's face with an expression in which hatred and amazement were
equally blended. "You fiend!" he kept on muttering. "You clever, clever
"Ah, Colonel!" said Holmes, arranging his rumpled collar. " 'Journeys
end in lovers' meetings,' as the old play says. I don't think I have had
the pleasure of seeing you since you favoured me with those attentions as
I lay on the ledge 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
Colonel Sebastian Moran, once of Her Majesty's Indian Army, and the best
heavy-game shot that our Eastern Empire has ever produced. I believe I am
correct, Colonel, in saying that your bag of tigers still remains
The fierce old man said nothing, but still glared at my companion.
With his savage eyes and bristling moustache he was wonderfully like a
"I wonder that my very simple stratagem could deceive so old a
shikari," said Holmes. "It must be very familiar to you. Have you not
tethered a young kid under a tree, lain above it with your rifle, and
waited for the bait to bring up your tiger? This empty house is my tree,
and you are my tiger. You have possibly had other guns in reserve in case
there should be several tigers, or in the unlikely supposition of your own
aim failing you. These," he pointed around, "are my other guns. The
parallel is exact."
Colonel Moran sprang forward with a snarl of rage, but the constables
dragged him 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 not anticipate that you would yourself make use of this empty house
and this convenient front window. I had imagined you as operating from the
street, where my friend Lestrade and his merry men were awaiting you. With
that exception, 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 least there can be no reason why I should submit to the gibes of this
person. If I am in the hands of the law, let things be done in a legal
"Well, that's reasonable enough," said Lestrade. "Nothing further you
have to say, Mr. Holmes, before we go?"
Holmes had picked up the powerful air-gun from the floor, and was
examining its mechanism.
"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 order of 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 it very specially to your attention,
Lestrade, and also the bullets which fit it."
"You can trust us to look after that, Mr. Holmes," said Lestrade, as
the whole party moved towards the door. "Any-thing further to say?"
"Only to ask what charge you intend to prefer?"
"What charge, sir? Why, of course, the attempted murder of Mr.
"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 remark-able arrest
which you have effected. Yes, Lestrade, I congratu-late you! With your
usual happy mixture of cunning and audacity, you have got him."
"Got him! Got whom, Mr. Holmes?"
"The man that the whole force has been seeking in vain Colonel
Sebastian Moran, who shot the Honourable Ronald Adair with an expanding
bullet from an air-gun through the open window of the second-floor front
of No. 427 Park Lane, upon the thirtieth of last month. That's the charge,
Lestrade. And now, Watson, if you can endure the draught from a broken
window, I think that half an hour in my study over a cigar may afford you
some profitable amusement."
Our old chambers had been left unchanged through the super-vision of
Mycroft Holmes 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. There were the chemical corner and the acid-stained, deal-topped
table. There upon a shelf was the row of formidable scrap-books and books
of reference which many of our fellow-citizens would have been so glad to
burn. The diagrams, the violin-case, and the pipe-rack even the Persian
slipper which contained the tobacco all met my eyes as I glanced round
me. There were two occupants of the room one, Mrs. Hudson, who beamed
upon us both as we entered the other, the strange dummy which had
played so important a part in the evening's adventures. It was a
wax-coloured model of my friend, so admirably done that it was a perfect
facsimile. It stood on a small pedestal table with an old dressing-gown of
Holmes's so draped round it that the illusion from the street was
"I hope you observed 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 the bullet went?"
"Yes, sir. I'm afraid it has spoilt your beautiful bust, for it
passed right through the head and flattened itself on the wall. I picked
it up from the carpet. 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 from an air-gun? All right, Mrs. Hudson. I am much obliged for your
assistance. And now. Watson, let me see you in your old seat once more,
for there are several points which I should like to discuss with you."
He had thrown off the seedy frockcoat, and now he was the Holmes of
old in the mouse-coloured dressing-gown which he took from his effigy.
"The old shikari's nerves have not lost their steadiness, nor his
eyes their keenness," said he, with a laugh, as he inspected the shattered
forehead of his bust.
"Plumb in the middle of the back of the head and smack through the
brain. He was 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 right, you had
not heard the name of Professor James Moriarty, who had one of the great
brains of the century. Just give me down my index of biographies from the
He turned over the pages lazily, leaning back in his chair and
blowing great clouds from his cigar.
"My collection of M's is a fine one," said he. "Moriarty himself is
enough to make any letter illustrious, and here is Morgan the poisoner,
and Merridew of abominable 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 I st
Bangalore Pioneers. Born London, 1840. Son of Sir Augustus
Moran, C.B., once British Minister to Persia. Educated
Eton and Oxford. Served in Jowaki Campaign, Afghan
Campaign, Charasiab (despatches), Sherpur, and Cabul. Author
of Heavy Game of the Western Himalayas (1881);
Three Months in the Jungle (1884). Address: Conduit Street.
Clubs: The Anglo-lndian, the Tankerville, the Bagatelle Card Club.
On the margin was written, in Holmes's precise hand:
The second most dangerous man in London.
"This is astonishing," said I, as I handed back the volume. "The
man's career is that of an honourable soldier."
"It is true," Holmes answered. "Up to a certain point he did well. He
was always a man of iron nerve, and the story is still told in India how
he crawled down a drain after a wounded man-eating tiger. There are some
trees, Watson, which grow to a certain height, and then suddenly develop
some unsightly eccentricity. You will see it often in humans. I have a
theory that the individual represents in his development the whole
procession of his ancestors, and that such a sudden turn to good or evil
stands for some strong influence which came into the line of his pedi-
gree. The person becomes, as it were, the epitome of the history of his
"It is surely rather fanciful."
"Well, I don't insist upon it. Whatever the cause, Colonel Moran
began to go wrong. Without any open scandal, he still made India too hot
to hold him. He retired, came to London, and again acquired an evil name.
It was at this time that he was sought out by Professor Moriarty, to whom
for a time he was chief of the staff. Moriarty supplied him liberally with
money, and used him only in one or two very high-class jobs, which no
ordinary criminal could have undertaken. You may have some recollection of
the death of Mrs. Stewart, of Lauder, in 1887. Not? Well, I am sure Moran
was at the bottom of it, but nothing could be proved. So cleverly was the
colonel concealed that, even when the Moriarty gang was broken up, we
could not incriminate him; You remember at that date, when I called upon
you in your rooms, how I put up the shuners for fear of air-guns? No doubt
you thought me fanciful. I knew exactly what I was doing, for I knew of
the existence of this remarkable gun, and I knew also that one of the best
shots in the world would be behind it. When we were in Switzerland he
followed us with Moriarty, and it was undoubtedly he who gave me that evil
five minutes on the Reichenbach ledge.
"You may think that I read the papers with some attention during my
sojourn in France, on the look-out for any chance of laying him by the
heels. So long as he was free in London, my life would really not have
been worth living. Night and day the shadow would have been over me, and
sooner or later his chance must have come. What could I do? I could not
shoot him at sight, or I should myself be in the dock. There was no use
appealing to a magistrate. They cannot interfere 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 or later I should get him.
Then came the death of this Ronald Adair. My chance had come at last.
Knowing what I did, was it not certain that Colonel Moran had done it? He
had played cards with the lad, he had followed him home from the club, he
had shot him through the open window. There was not a doubt of it. The
bullets alone are enough to put his head in a noose. I came over at once.
I was seen by the sentinel, who would, I knew, direct the colonel's
attention to my presence. He could not fail to connect my sudden return
with his crime, and to be terribly alarmed. I was sure that he would make
an attempt to get me out of the way at once, and would bring round his
murderous weapon for that purpose. I left him an excellent mark in the
window, and, having warned the police that they might be needed by the
way, Watson, you spotted their presence in that doorway with unerring
accuracy I took up what seemed to me to be a judicious post for
observation, never dreaming that he would choose the same spot for his
attack. Now, my dear Watson, does anything remain for me to explain?"
"Yes," said I. "You have not made it clear what was Colonel Moran's
motive in murdering the Honourable Ronald Adair?"
"Ah! my dear Watson, there we come into those realms of conjecture,
where the most logical mind may be at fault. Each may form his own
hypothesis upon the present evidence, and yours is as likely to be correct
"You have formed one, then?"
"I think that it is not difficult to explain the facts. It came out
in evidence that Colonel Moran and young Adair had, between them, won a
considerable amount of money. Now, Moran undoubtedly played foul of
that I have long been aware. I believe that on the day of the murder Adair
had discovered that Moran was cheating. Very likely he had spoken to him
privately, and had threatened to expose him unless he voluntarily resigned
his membership of the club, and promised not to play cards again. It is
unlikely that a youngster like Adair would at once make a hideous scandal
by exposing a well known man so much older than himself. Probably he acted
as I suggest. The exclusion from his clubs would mean ruin to Moran, who
lived by his ill-gotten card-gains. He therefore murdered Adair, who at
the time was endeavouring to work out how much money he should himself
return. since he could not profit by his partner's foul play. He locked
the door lest the ladies should surprise him and insist upon knowing what
he was doing with these names and coins. Will it 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 will embellish the Scotland Yard Museum, and once again Mr.
Sherlock Holmes is free to devote his life to examining those interesting
little problems which the complex life of London so plentifully presents."