THE ADVENTURE OF THE EMPTY HOUSE
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 police
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withdrawn upon the third of last month.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 willful murder against some person or
persons unknown, 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 the inquest.
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 endeavouring 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 upon 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,
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 I was?"
"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
collar-ends undone and the tingling after-taste of brandy upon
my lips. Holmes was bending over my chair, his flask in his hand.
"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 abyss?"
"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 dramatic reappearance."
"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
afterwards 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
"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
themselves, 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. I 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
Professor 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 house."
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
"Exactly. We are in Camden House, which stands opposite to our
own old quarters."
"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
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 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," 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 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 I arranged myself during my visit to Baker
Street this afternoon."
"Because, my dear Watson, I had the strongest possible reason
for wishing certain people to think that I was there when I was
"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's-harp. 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 themselves. 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 towards us.
Three years had certainly not smoothed the asperities of his
temper or his impatience with a less active intelligence than
"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 convulsively. 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 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 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 our prisoner.
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 fiend!"
"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 unrivalled?"
The fierce old man said nothing, but still glared at my
companion. With his savage eyes and bristling moustache he was
wonderfully like a tiger himself.
"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
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 way."
"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 existance 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
"You can trust us to look after that, Mr. Holmes," said
Lestrade, as the whole party 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.
"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 have effected. Yes, Lestrade, I
congratulate 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
Our old chambers had been left unchanged through the supervision
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 absolutely perfect.
"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 airgun? 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
"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 shelf."
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 1st 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-Indian, 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 pedigree. The person becomes, as it were, 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 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 shutters 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
"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 as mine."
"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, 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
"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."