A moment later the tall and portly form of Mycroft Holmes was
ushered into the room. Heavily built and massive, there was a suggestion of uncouth
physical inertia in the figure, but above this unwieldy frame there was perched a head so
masterful in its brow, so alert in its steel-gray, deep-set eyes, so firm in its lips, and
so subtle in its play of expression, that after the first glance one forgot the gross body
and remembered only the dominant mind.
At his heels came our old friend Lestrade, of Scotland
Yardthin and austere. The gravity of both their faces foretold some weighty quest.
The detective shook hands without a word. Mycroft Holmes struggled out of his overcoat and
subsided into an armchair.
A most annoying business, Sherlock, said he.
I extremely dislike altering my habits, but the powers that be would take no denial.
In the present state of Siam it is most awkward that I should be away from the office. But
it is a real crisis. I have never seen the Prime Minister so upset. As to the
Admiraltyit is buzzing like an overturned bee-hive. Have you read up the case?
We have just done so. What were the technical
Ah, theres the point! Fortunately, it has not come
out. The press would be furious if it did. The papers which this wretched youth had in his
pocket were the plans of the Bruce-Partington submarine.
Mycroft Holmes spoke with a solemnity which showed his sense
of the importance of the subject. His brother and I sat expectant.
Surely you have heard of it? I thought everyone had
heard of it.
Only as a name.
Its importance can hardly be exaggerated. It has been
the most jealously guarded of all government secrets. You may take it from me that naval
warfare becomes impossible within the radius of a Bruce-Partingtons operation. Two
years ago a very large sum was smuggled through the Estimates and was expended in
acquiring a monopoly of the invention. Every effort has been made to keep the secret. The
plans, which are exceedingly intricate, comprising some thirty separate patents, each
essential to the working of the whole, are kept in an elaborate safe in a confidential
office adjoining the arsenal, with burglar-proof doors and windows. Under no conceivable
circumstances were the plans to be taken from the office. If the chief constructor of the
Navy desired to consult them, even he was forced to go to the Woolwich office for the
purpose. And yet here we find them in the pocket of a dead junior clerk in the heart of
London. From an official point of view its simply awful.
But you have recovered them?
No, Sherlock, no! Thats the pinch. We have not.
Ten papers were taken from Woolwich. There were seven in the pocket of Cadogan West. The
three most essential are gonestolen, vanished. You must drop everything, Sherlock.
Never mind your usual petty puzzles of the police-court. Its a vital international
problem  that you have
to solve. Why did Cadogan West take the papers, where are the missing ones, how did he
die, how came his body where it was found, how can the evil be set right? Find an answer
to all these questions, and you will have done good service for your country.
Why do you not solve it yourself, Mycroft? You can see
as far as I.
Possibly, Sherlock. But it is a question of getting
details. Give me your details, and from an armchair I will return you an excellent expert
opinion. But to run here and run there, to cross-question railway guards, and lie on my
face with a lens to my eyeit is not my m�tier. No, you are the one man who
can clear the matter up. If you have a fancy to see your name in the next honours
My friend smiled and shook his head.
I play the game for the games own sake, said
he. But the problem certainly presents some points of interest, and I shall be very
pleased to look into it. Some more facts, please.
I have jotted down the more essential ones upon this
sheet of paper, together with a few addresses which you will find of service. The actual
official guardian of the papers is the famous government expert, Sir James Walter, whose
decorations and sub-titles fill two lines of a book of reference. He has grown gray in the
service, is a gentleman, a favoured guest in the most exalted houses, and, above all, a
man whose patriotism is beyond suspicion. He is one of two who have a key of the safe. I
may add that the papers were undoubtedly in the office during working hours on Monday, and
that Sir James left for London about three oclock taking his key with him. He was at
the house of Admiral Sinclair at Barclay Square during the whole of the evening when this
Has the fact been verified?
Yes; his brother, Colonel Valentine Walter, has
testified to his departure from Woolwich, and Admiral Sinclair to his arrival in London;
so Sir James is no longer a direct factor in the problem.
Who was the other man with a key?
The senior clerk and draughtsman, Mr. Sidney Johnson. He
is a man of forty, married, with five children. He is a silent, morose man, but he has, on
the whole, an excellent record in the public service. He is unpopular with his colleagues,
but a hard worker. According to his own account, corroborated only by the word of his
wife, he was at home the whole of Monday evening after office hours, and his key has never
left the watch-chain upon which it hangs.
Tell us about Cadogan West.
He has been ten years in the service and has done good
work. He has the reputation of being hot-headed and impetuous, but a straight, honest man.
We have nothing against him. He was next Sidney Johnson in the office. His duties brought
him into daily, personal contact with the plans. No one else had the handling of
Who locked the plans up that night?
Mr. Sidney Johnson, the senior clerk.
Well, it is surely perfectly clear who took them away.
They are actually found upon the person of this junior clerk, Cadogan West. That seems
final, does it not?
It does, Sherlock, and yet it leaves so much
unexplained. In the first place, why did he take them?
I presume they were of value?
He could have got several thousands for them very
you suggest any possible motive for taking the papers to London except to sell them?
No, I cannot.
Then we must take that as our working hypothesis. Young
West took the papers. Now this could only be done by having a false key
Several false keys. He had to open the building and the
He had, then, several false keys. He took the papers to
London to sell the secret, intending, no doubt, to have the plans themselves back in the
safe next morning before they were missed. While in London on this treasonable mission he
met his end.
We will suppose that he was travelling back to Woolwich
when he was killed and thrown out of the compartment.
Aldgate, where the body was found, is considerably past
the station for London Bridge, which would be his route to Woolwich.
Many circumstances could be imagined under which he
would pass London Bridge. There was someone in the carriage, for example, with whom he was
having an absorbing interview. This interview led to a violent scene in which he lost his
life. Possibly he tried to leave the carriage, fell out on the line, and so met his end.
The other closed the door. There was a thick fog, and nothing could be seen.
No better explanation can be given with our present
knowledge; and yet consider, Sherlock, how much you leave untouched. We will suppose, for
arguments sake, that young Cadogan West had determined to convey these
papers to London. He would naturally have made an appointment with the foreign agent and
kept his evening clear. Instead of that he took two tickets for the theatre, escorted his
fiancee halfway there, and then suddenly disappeared.
A blind, said Lestrade, who had sat listening with
some impatience to the conversation.
A very singular one. That is objection No. 1. Objection
No. 2: We will suppose that he reaches London and sees the foreign agent. He must bring
back the papers before morning or the loss will be discovered. He took away ten. Only
seven were in his pocket. What had become of the other three? He certainly would not leave
them of his own free will. Then, again, where is the price of his treason? One would have
expected to find a large sum of money in his pocket.
It seems to me perfectly clear, said Lestrade.
I have no doubt at all as to what occurred. He took the papers to sell them. He saw
the agent. They could not agree as to price. He started home again, but the agent went
with him. In the train the agent murdered him, took the more essential papers, and threw
his body from the carriage. That would account for everything, would it not?
Why had he no ticket?
The ticket would have shown which station was nearest
the agents house. Therefore he took it from the murdered mans pocket.
Good, Lestrade, very good, said Holmes. Your
theory holds together. But if this is true, then the case is at an end. On the one hand,
the traitor is dead. On the other, the plans of the Bruce-Partington submarine are
presumably already on the Continent. What is there for us to do?
To act, Sherlockto act! cried Mycroft,
springing to his feet. All my instincts are against this explanation. Use your
powers! Go to the scene of the crime! See 
the people concerned! Leave no stone unturned! In all your career you have
never had so great a chance of serving your country.
Well, well! said Holmes, shrugging his shoulders.
Come, Watson! And you, Lestrade, could you favour us with your company for an hour
or two? We will begin our investigation by a visit to Aldgate Station. Good-bye, Mycroft.
I shall let you have a report before evening, but I warn you in advance that you have
little to expect.
An hour later Holmes, Lestrade and I stood upon the
Underground railroad at the point where it emerges from the tunnel immediately before
Aldgate Station. A courteous red-faced old gentleman represented the railway company.
This is where the young mans body lay, said
he, indicating a spot about three feet from the metals. It could not have fallen
from above, for these, as you see, are all blank walls. Therefore, it could only have come
from a train, and that train, so far as we can trace it, must have passed about midnight
Have the carriages been examined for any sign of
There are no such signs, and no ticket has been
No record of a door being found open?
We have had some fresh evidence this morning, said
Lestrade. A passenger who passed Aldgate in an ordinary Metropolitan train about
11:40 on Monday night declares that he heard a heavy thud, as of a body striking the line,
just before the train reached the station. There was dense fog, however, and nothing could
be seen. He made no report of it at the time. Why, whatever is the matter with Mr.
My friend was standing with an expression of strained
intensity upon his face, staring at the railway metals where they curved out of the
tunnel. Aldgate is a junction, and there was a network of points. On these his eager,
questioning eyes were fixed, and I saw on his keen, alert face that tightening of the
lips, that quiver of the nostrils, and concentration of the heavy, tufted brows which I
knew so well.
Points, he muttered; the points.
What of it? What do you mean?
I suppose there are no great number of points on a
system such as this?
No; there are very few.
And a curve, too. Points, and a curve. By Jove! if it
were only so.
What is it, Mr. Holmes? Have you a clue?
An ideaan indication, no more. But the case
certainly grows in interest. Unique, perfectly unique, and yet why not? I do not see any
indications of bleeding on the line.
There were hardly any.
But I understand that there was a considerable
The bone was crushed, but there was no great external
And yet one would have expected some bleeding. Would it
be possible for me to inspect the train which contained the passenger who heard the thud
of a fall in the fog?
I fear not, Mr. Holmes. The train has been broken up
before now, and the carriages redistributed.
I can assure you, Mr. Holmes, said Lestrade,
that every carriage has been carefully examined. I saw to it myself.
was one of my friends most obvious weaknesses that he was impatient with less alert
intelligences than his own.
Very likely, said he, turning away. As it
happens, it was not the carriages which I desired to examine. Watson, we have done all we
can here. We need not trouble you any further, Mr. Lestrade. I think our investigations
must now carry us to Woolwich.
At London Bridge, Holmes wrote a telegram to his brother,
which he handed to me before dispatching it. It ran thus:
- See some light in the darkness, but it may possibly flicker
out. Meanwhile, please send by messenger, to await return at Baker Street, a complete list
of all foreign spies or international agents known to be in England, with full address.
That should be helpful, Watson, he remarked as
we took our seats in the Woolwich train. We certainly owe Brother Mycroft a debt for
having introduced us to what promises to be a really very remarkable case.
His eager face still wore that expression of intense and
high-strung energy, which showed me that some novel and suggestive circumstance had opened
up a stimulating line of thought. See the foxhound with hanging ears and drooping tail as
it lolls about the kennels, and compare it with the same hound as, with gleaming eyes and
straining muscles, it runs upon a breast-high scent such was the change in Holmes
since the morning. He was a different man from the limp and lounging figure in the
mouse-coloured dressing-gown who had prowled so restlessly only a few hours before round
the fog-girt room.
There is material here. There is scope, said he.
I am dull indeed not to have understood its possibilities.
Even now they are dark to me.
The end is dark to me also, but I have hold of one idea
which may lead us far. The man met his death elsewhere, and his body was on the roof
of a carriage.
On the roof!
Remarkable, is it not? But consider the facts. Is it a
coincidence that it is found at the very point where the train pitches and sways as it
comes round on the points? Is not that the place where an object upon the roof might be
expected to fall off? The points would affect no object inside the train. Either the body
fell from the roof, or a very curious coincidence has occurred. But now consider the
question of the blood. Of course, there was no bleeding on the line if the body had bled
elsewhere. Each fact is suggestive in itself. Together they have a cumulative force.
And the ticket, too! I cried.
Exactly. We could not explain the absence of a ticket.
This would explain it. Everything fits together.
But suppose it were so, we are still as far as ever from
unravelling the mystery of his death. Indeed, it becomes not simpler but stranger.
Perhaps, said Holmes thoughtfully,
perhaps. He relapsed into a silent reverie, which lasted until the slow train
drew up at last in Woolwich Station. There he called a cab and drew Mycrofts paper
from his pocket.
We have quite a little round of afternoon calls to
make, said he. I think that Sir James Walter claims our first attention.
house of the famous official was a fine villa with green lawns stretching down to the
Thames. As we reached it the fog was lifting, and a thin, watery sunshine was breaking
through. A butler answered our ring.
Sir James, sir! said he with solemn face.
Sir James died this morning.
Good heavens! cried Holmes in amazement. How
did he die?
Perhaps you would care to step in, sir, and see his
brother, Colonel Valentine?
Yes, we had best do so.
We were ushered into a dim-lit drawing-room, where an instant
later we were joined by a very tall, handsome, light-bearded man of fifty, the younger
brother of the dead scientist. His wild eyes, stained cheeks, and unkempt hair all spoke
of the sudden blow which had fallen upon the household. He was hardly articulate as he
spoke of it.
It was this horrible scandal, said he. My
brother, Sir James, was a man of very sensitive honour, and he could not survive such an
affair. It broke his heart. He was always so proud of the efficiency of his department,
and this was a crushing blow.
We had hoped that he might have given us some
indications which would have helped us to clear the matter up.
I assure you that it was all a mystery to him as it is
to you and to all of us. He had already put all his knowledge at the disposal of the
police. Naturally he had no doubt that Cadogan West was guilty. But all the rest was
You cannot throw any new light upon the affair?
I know nothing myself save what I have read or heard. I
have no desire to be discourteous, but you can understand, Mr. Holmes, that we are much
disturbed at present, and I must ask you to hasten this interview to an end.
This is indeed an unexpected development, said my
friend when we had regained the cab. I wonder if the death was natural, or whether
the poor old fellow killed himself! If the latter, may it be taken as some sign of
self-reproach for duty neglected? We must leave that question to the future. Now we shall
turn to the Cadogan Wests.
A small but well-kept house in the outskirts of the town
sheltered the bereaved mother. The old lady was too dazed with grief to be of any use to
us, but at her side was a white-faced young lady, who introduced herself as Miss Violet
Westbury, the fiancee of the dead man, and the last to see him upon that fatal night.
I cannot explain it, Mr. Holmes, she said. I
have not shut an eye since the tragedy, thinking, thinking, thinking, night and day, what
the true meaning of it can be. Arthur was the most single-minded, chivalrous, patriotic
man upon earth. He would have cut his right hand off before he would sell a State secret
confided to his keeping. It is absurd, impossible, preposterous to anyone who knew
But the facts, Miss Westbury?
Yes, yes; I admit I cannot explain them.
Was he in any want of money?
No; his needs were very simple and his salary ample. He
had saved a few hundreds, and we were to marry at the New Year.
No signs of any mental excitement? Come, Miss Westbury,
be absolutely frank with us.
The quick eye of my companion had noted some change in her
manner. She coloured and hesitated.
Yes, she said at last, I had a feeling that
there was something on his mind.
for the last week or so. He was thoughtful and worried. Once I pressed him about it. He
admitted that there was something, and that it was concerned with his official life.
It is too serious for me to speak about, even to you, said he. I could get
Holmes looked grave.
Go on, Miss Westbury. Even if it seems to tell against
him, go on. We cannot say what it may lead to.
Indeed, I have nothing more to tell. Once or twice it
seemed to me that he was on the point of telling me something. He spoke one evening of the
importance of the secret, and I have some recollection that he said that no doubt foreign
spies would pay a great deal to have it.
My friends face grew graver still.
He said that we were slack about such mattersthat
it would be easy for a traitor to get the plans.
Was it only recently that he made such remarks?
Yes, quite recently.
Now tell us of that last evening.
We were to go to the theatre. The fog was so thick that
a cab was useless. We walked, and our way took us close to the office. Suddenly he darted
away into the fog.
Without a word?
He gave an exclamation; that was all. I waited but he
never returned. Then I walked home. Next morning, after the office opened, they came to
inquire. About twelve oclock we heard the terrible news. Oh, Mr. Holmes, if you
could only, only save his honour! It was so much to him.
Holmes shook his head sadly.
Come, Watson, said he, our ways lie
elsewhere. Our next station must be the office from which the papers were taken.
It was black enough before against this young man, but
our inquiries make it blacker, he remarked as the cab lumbered off. His coming
marriage gives a motive for the crime. He naturally wanted money. The idea was in his
head, since he spoke about it. He nearly made the girl an accomplice in the treason by
telling her his plans. It is all very bad.
But surely, Holmes, character goes for something? Then,
again, why should he leave the girl in the street and dart away to commit a felony?
Exactly! There are certainly objections. But it is a
formidable case which they have to meet.
Mr. Sidney Johnson, the senior clerk, met us at the office and
received us with that respect which my companions card always commanded. He was a
thin, gruff, bespectacled man of middle age, his cheeks haggard, and his hands twitching
from the nervous strain to which he had been subjected.
It is bad, Mr. Holmes, very bad! Have you heard of the
death of the chief?
We have just come from his house.
The place is disorganized. The chief dead, Cadogan West
dead, our papers stolen. And yet, when we closed our door on Monday evening, we were as
efficient an office as any in the government service. Good God, its dreadful to
think of! That West, of all men, should have done such a thing!
You are sure of his guilt, then?
can see no other way out of it. And yet I would have trusted him as I trust myself.
At what hour was the office closed on Monday?
Did you close it?
I am always the last man out.
Where were the plans?
In that safe. I put them there myself.
Is there no watchman to the building?
There is, but he has other departments to look after as
well. He is an old soldier and a most trustworthy man. He saw nothing that evening. Of
course the fog was very thick.
Suppose that Cadogan West wished to make his way into
the building after hours; he would need three keys, would he not, before he could reach
Yes, he would. The key of the outer door, the key of the
office, and the key of the safe.
Only Sir James Walter and you had those keys?
I had no keys of the doorsonly of the safe.
Was Sir James a man who was orderly in his habits?
Yes, I think he was. I know that so far as those three
keys are concerned he kept them on the same ring. I have often seen them there.
And that ring went with him to London?
He said so.
And your key never left your possession?
Then West, if he is the culprit, must have had a
duplicate. And yet none was found upon his body. One other point: if a clerk in this
office desired to sell the plans, would it not be simpler to copy the plans for himself
than to take the originals, as was actually done?
It would take considerable technical knowledge to copy
the plans in an effective way.
But I suppose either Sir James, or you, or West had that
No doubt we had, but I beg you wont try to drag me
into the matter, Mr. Holmes. What is the use of our speculating in this way when the
original plans were actually found on West?
Well, it is certainly singular that he should run the
risk of taking originals if he could safely have taken copies, which would have equally
served his turn.
Singular, no doubtand yet he did so.
Every inquiry in this case reveals something
inexplicable. Now there are three papers still missing. They are, as I understand, the
Yes, that is so.
Do you mean to say that anyone holding these three
papers, and without the seven others, could construct a Bruce-Partington submarine?
I reported to that effect to the Admiralty. But to-day I
have been over the drawings again, and I am not so sure of it. The double valves with the
automatic self-adjusting slots are drawn in one of the papers which have been returned.
Until the foreigners had invented that for themselves they could not make the boat. Of
course they might soon get over the difficulty.
But the three missing drawings are the most
I think, with your permission, I will now take a stroll
round the premises. I do not recall any other question which I desired to ask.
He examined the lock of the safe, the door of the room, and
finally the iron shutters of the window. It was only when we were on the lawn outside that
his interest was strongly excited. There was a laurel bush outside the window, and several
of the branches bore signs of having been twisted or snapped. He examined them carefully
with his lens, and then some dim and vague marks upon the earth beneath. Finally he asked
the chief clerk to close the iron shutters, and he pointed out to me that they hardly met
in the centre, and that it would be possible for anyone outside to see what was going on
within the room.
The indications are ruined by the three days
delay. They may mean something or nothing. Well, Watson, I do not think that Woolwich can
help us further. It is a small crop which we have gathered. Let us see if we can do better
Yet we added one more sheaf to our harvest before we left
Woolwich Station. The clerk in the ticket office was able to say with confidence that he
saw Cadogan Westwhom he knew well by sightupon the Monday night, and that he
went to London by the 8:15 to London Bridge. He was alone and took a single third-class
ticket. The clerk was struck at the time by his excited and nervous manner. So shaky was
he that he could hardly pick up his change, and the clerk had helped him with it. A
reference to the timetable showed that the 8:15 was the first train which it was possible
for West to take after he had left the lady about 7:30.
Let us reconstruct, Watson, said Holmes after half
an hour of silence. I am not aware that in all our joint researches we have ever had
a case which was more difficult to get at. Every fresh advance which we make only reveals
a fresh ridge beyond. And yet we have surely made some appreciable progress.
The effect of our inquiries at Woolwich has in the main
been against young Cadogan West; but the indications at the window would lend themselves
to a more favourable hypothesis. Let us suppose, for example, that he had been approached
by some foreign agent. It might have been done under such pledges as would have prevented
him from speaking of it, and yet would have affected his thoughts in the direction
indicated by his remarks to his fiancee. Very good. We will now suppose that as he went to
the theatre with the young lady he suddenly, in the fog, caught a glimpse of this same
agent going in the direction of the office. He was an impetuous man, quick in his
decisions. Everything gave way to his duty. He followed the man, reached the window, saw
the abstraction of the documents, and pursued the thief. In this way we get over the
objection that no one would take originals when he could make copies. This outsider had to
take originals. So far it holds together.
What is the next step?
Then we come into difficulties. One would imagine that
under such circumstances the first act of young Cadogan West would be to seize the villain
and raise the alarm. Why did he not do so? Could it have been an official superior who
took the papers? That would explain Wests conduct. Or could the chief have given
West the slip in the fog, and West started at once to London to head him off from his own
rooms, presuming that he knew where the rooms were? The call must have been very pressing,
since he left his girl standing in the fog and made no effort to communicate with her. Our
scent runs cold here, and there is a vast gap between either hypothesis and the laying of
Wests body, with seven papers  in
his pocket, on the roof of a Metropolitan train. My instinct now is to work from the other
end. If Mycroft has given us the list of addresses we may be able to pick our man and
follow two tracks instead of one.
Surely enough, a note awaited us at Baker Street. A government
messenger had brought it post-haste. Holmes glanced at it and threw it over to me.
- There are numerous small fry, but few who would handle so
big an affair. The only men worth considering are Adolph Meyer, of 13 Great George Street,
Westminster; Louis La Rothiere, of Campden Mansions, Notting Hill; and Hugo Oberstein, 13
Caulfield Gardens, Kensington. The latter was known to be in town on Monday and is now
reported as having left. Glad to hear you have seen some light. The Cabinet awaits your
final report with the utmost anxiety. Urgent representations have arrived from the very
highest quarter. The whole force of the State is at your back if you should need it.
Im afraid, said Holmes, smiling,
that all the queens horses and all the queens men cannot avail in this
matter. He had spread out his big map of London and leaned eagerly over it.
Well, well, said he presently with an exclamation of satisfaction,
things are turning a little in our direction at last. Why, Watson, I do honestly
believe that we are going to pull it off, after all. He slapped me on the shoulder
with a sudden burst of hilarity. I am going out now. It is only a reconnaissance. I
will do nothing serious without my trusted comrade and biographer at my elbow. Do you stay
here, and the odds are that you will see me again in an hour or two. If time hangs heavy
get foolscap and a pen, and begin your narrative of how we saved the State.
I felt some reflection of his elation in my own mind, for I
knew well that he would not depart so far from his usual austerity of demeanour unless
there was good cause for exultation. All the long November evening I waited, filled with
impatience for his return. At last, shortly after nine oclock, there arrived a
messenger with a note:
- Am dining at Goldinis Restaurant, Gloucester Road,
Kensington. Please come at once and join me there. Bring with you a jemmy, a dark lantern,
a chisel, and a revolver.
- S. H.
It was a nice equipment for a respectable citizen to carry
through the dim, fog-draped streets. I stowed them all discreetly away in my overcoat and
drove straight to the address given. There sat my friend at a little round table near the
door of the garish Italian restaurant.
Have you had something to eat? Then join me in a coffee
and curacao. Try one of the proprietors cigars. They are less poisonous than one
would expect. Have you the tools?
They are here, in my overcoat.
Excellent. Let me give you a short sketch of what I have
done, with some indication of what we are about to do. Now it must be evident to you,
Watson, that this young mans body was placed on the roof of the train. That
was clear from the instant that I determined the fact that it was from the roof, and not
from a carriage, that he had fallen.
Could it not have been dropped from a bridge?
should say it was impossible. If you examine the roofs you will find that they are
slightly rounded, and there is no railing round them. Therefore, we can say for certain
that young Cadogan West was placed on it.
How could he be placed there?
That was the question which we had to answer. There is
only one possible way. You are aware that the Underground runs clear of tunnels at some
points in the West End. I had a vague memory that as I have travelled by it I have
occasionally seen windows just above my head. Now, suppose that a train halted under such
a window, would there be any difficulty in laying a body upon the roof?
It seems most improbable.
We must fall back upon the old axiom that when all other
contingencies fail, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth. Here all
other contingencies have failed. When I found that the leading international agent, who
had just left London, lived in a row of houses which abutted upon the Underground, I was
so pleased that you were a little astonished at my sudden frivolity.
Oh, that was it, was it?
Yes, that was it. Mr. Hugo Oberstein, of 13 Caulfield
Gardens, had become my objective. I began my operations at Gloucester Road Station, where
a very helpful official walked with me along the track and allowed me to satisfy myself
not only that the back-stair windows of Caulfield Gardens open on the line but the even
more essential fact that, owing to the intersection of one of the larger railways, the
Underground trains are frequently held motionless for some minutes at that very
Splendid, Holmes! You have got it!
So farso far, Watson. We advance, but the goal is
afar. Well, having seen the back of Caulfield Gardens, I visited the front and satisfied
myself that the bird was indeed flown. It is a considerable house, unfurnished, so far as
I could judge, in the upper rooms. Oberstein lived there with a single valet, who was
probably a confederate entirely in his confidence. We must bear in mind that Oberstein has
gone to the Continent to dispose of his booty, but not with any idea of flight; for he had
no reason to fear a warrant, and the idea of an amateur domiciliary visit would certainly
never occur to him. Yet that is precisely what we are about to make.
Could we not get a warrant and legalize it?
Hardly on the evidence.
What can we hope to do?
We cannot tell what correspondence may be there.
I dont like it, Holmes.
My dear fellow, you shall keep watch in the street.
Ill do the criminal part. Its not a time to stick at trifles. Think of
Mycrofts note, of the Admiralty, the Cabinet, the exalted person who waits for news.
We are bound to go.
My answer was to rise from the table.
You are right, Holmes. We are bound to go.
He sprang up and shook me by the hand.
I knew you would not shrink at the last, said he,
and for a moment I saw something in his eyes which was nearer to tenderness than I had
ever seen. The next instant he was his masterful, practical self once more.
It is nearly half a mile, but there is no hurry. Let us
walk, said he. Dont 
drop the instruments, I beg. Your arrest as a suspicious character would be
a most unfortunate complication.
Caulfield Gardens was one of those lines of flat-faced
pillared, and porticoed houses which are so prominent a product of the middle Victorian
epoch in the West End of London. Next door there appeared to be a childrens party,
for the merry buzz of young voices and the clatter of a piano resounded through the night.
The fog still hung about and screened us with its friendly shade. Holmes had lit his
lantern and flashed it upon the massive door.
This is a serious proposition, said he. It
is certainly bolted as well as locked. We would do better in the area. There is an
excellent archway down yonder in case a too zealous policeman should intrude. Give me a
hand, Watson, and Ill do the same for you.
A minute later we were both in the area. Hardly had we reached
the dark shadows before the step of the policeman was heard in the fog above. As its soft
rhythm died away, Holmes set to work upon the lower door. I saw him stoop and strain until
with a sharp crash it flew open. We sprang through into the dark passage, closing the area
door behind us. Holmes led the way up the curving, uncarpeted stair. His little fan of
yellow light shone upon a low window.
Here we are, Watsonthis must be the one. He
threw it open, and as he did so there was a low, harsh murmur, growing steadily into a
loud roar as a train dashed past us in the darkness. Holmes swept his light along the
window-sill. It was thickly coated with soot from the passing engines, but the black
surface was blurred and rubbed in places.
You can see where they rested the body. Halloa,
Watson! what is this? There can be no doubt that it is a blood mark. He was pointing
to faint discolourations along the woodwork of the window. Here it is on the stone
of the stair also. The demonstration is complete. Let us stay here until a train
We had not long to wait. The very next train roared from the
tunnel as before, but slowed in the open, and then, with a creaking of brakes, pulled up
immediately beneath us. It was not four feet from the window-ledge to the roof of the
carriages. Holmes softly closed the window.
So far we are justified, said he. What do
you think of it, Watson?
A masterpiece. You have never risen to a greater
I cannot agree with you there. From the moment that I
conceived the idea of the body being upon the roof, which surely was not a very abstruse
one, all the rest was inevitable. If it were not for the grave interests involved the
affair up to this point would be insignificant. Our difficulties are still before us. But
perhaps we may find something here which may help us.
We had ascended the kitchen stair and entered the suite of
rooms upon the first floor. One was a dining-room, severely furnished and containing
nothing of interest. A second was a bedroom, which also drew blank. The remaining room
appeared more promising, and my companion settled down to a systematic examination. It was
littered with books and papers, and was evidently used as a study. Swiftly and
methodically Holmes turned over the contents of drawer after drawer and cupboard after
cupboard, but no gleam of success came to brighten his austere face. At the end of an hour
he was no further than when he started.
The cunning dog has covered his tracks, said he.
He has left nothing to incriminate him. His dangerous correspondence has been
destroyed or removed. This is our last chance.
was a small tin cash-box which stood upon the writing-desk. Holmes pried it open with his
chisel. Several rolls of paper were within, covered with figures and calculations, without
any note to show to what they referred. The recurring words, water pressure
and pressure to the square inch suggested some possible relation to a
submarine. Holmes tossed them all impatiently aside. There only remained an envelope with
some small newspaper slips inside it. He shook them out on the table, and at once I saw by
his eager face that his hopes had been raised.
Whats this, Watson? Eh? Whats this? Record
of a series of messages in the advertisements of a paper. Daily Telegraph agony
column by the print and paper. Right-hand top corner of a page. No datesbut messages
arrange themselves. This must be the first:
- Hoped to hear sooner. Terms agreed to. Write fully to
address given on card.
- Too complex for description. Must have full report.
Stuff awaits you when goods delivered.
- Matter presses. Must withdraw offer unless contract
completed. Make appointment by letter. Will confirm by advertisement.
- Monday night after nine. Two taps. Only ourselves. Do
not be so suspicious. Payment in hard cash when goods delivered.
A fairly complete record, Watson! If we could only
get at the man at the other end! He sat lost in thought, tapping his fingers on the
table. Finally he sprang to his feet.
Well, perhaps it wont be so difficult, after all.
There is nothing more to be done here, Watson. I think we might drive round to the offices
of the Daily Telegraph, and so bring a good days work to a conclusion.
Mycroft Holmes and Lestrade had come round by appointment
after breakfast next day and Sherlock Holmes had recounted to them our proceedings of the
day before. The professional shook his head over our confessed burglary.
We cant do these things in the force, Mr.
Holmes, said he. No wonder you get results that are beyond us. But some of
these days youll go too far, and youll find yourself and your friend in
For England, home and beautyeh, Watson? Martyrs on
the altar of our country. But what do you think of it, Mycroft?
Excellent, Sherlock! Admirable! But what use will you
make of it?
Holmes picked up the Daily Telegraph which lay upon
Have you seen Pierrots advertisement to-day?
What? Another one?
Yes, here it is:
-  To-night.
Same hour. Same place. Two taps. Most vitally important. Your own safety at stake.
By George! cried Lestrade. If he answers
that weve got him!
That was my idea when I put it in. I think if you could
both make it convenient to come with us about eight oclock to Caulfield Gardens we
might possibly get a little nearer to a solution.
One of the most remarkable characteristics of Sherlock
Holmes was his power of throwing his brain out of action and switching all his thoughts on
to lighter things whenever he had convinced himself that he could no longer work to
advantage. I remember that during the whole of that memorable day he lost himself in a
monograph which he had undertaken upon the Polyphonic Motets of Lassus. For my own part I
had none of this power of detachment, and the day, in consequence, appeared to be
interminable. The great national importance of the issue, the suspense in high quarters,
the direct nature of the experiment which we were tryingall combined to work upon my
nerve. It was a relief to me when at last, after a light dinner, we set out upon our
expedition. Lestrade and Mycroft met us by appointment at the outside of Gloucester Road
Station. The area door of Obersteins house had been left open the night before, and
it was necessary for me, as Mycroft Holmes absolutely and indignantly declined to climb
the railings, to pass in and open the hall door. By nine oclock we were all seated
in the study, waiting patiently for our man.
An hour passed and yet another. When eleven struck, the
measured beat of the great church clock seemed to sound the dirge of our hopes. Lestrade
and Mycroft were fidgeting in their seats and looking twice a minute at their watches.
Holmes sat silent and composed, his eyelids half shut, but every sense on the alert. He
raised his head with a sudden jerk.
He is coming, said he.
There had been a furtive step past the door. Now it returned.
We heard a shuffling sound outside, and then two sharp taps with the knocker. Holmes rose,
motioning to us to remain seated. The gas in the hall was a mere point of light. He opened
the outer door, and then as a dark figure slipped past him he closed and fastened it.
This way! we heard him say, and a moment later our man stood before us. Holmes
had followed him closely, and as the man turned with a cry of surprise and alarm he caught
him by the collar and threw him back into the room. Before our prisoner had recovered his
balance the door was shut and Holmes standing with his back against it. The man glared
round him, staggered, and fell senseless upon the floor. With the shock, his broad-brimmed
hat flew from his head, his cravat slipped down from his lips, and there were the long
light beard and the soft, handsome delicate features of Colonel Valentine Walter.
Holmes gave a whistle of surprise.
You can write me down an ass this time, Watson,
said he. This was not the bird that I was looking for.
Who is he? asked Mycroft eagerly.
The younger brother of the late Sir James Walter, the
head of the Submarine Department. Yes, yes; I see the fall of the cards. He is coming to.
I think that you had best leave his examination to me.
We had carried the prostrate body to the sofa. Now our
prisoner sat up, looked  round
him with a horror-stricken face, and passed his hand over his forehead, like one who
cannot believe his own senses.
What is this? he asked. I came here to visit
Everything is known, Colonel Walter, said Holmes.
How an English gentleman could behave in such a manner is beyond my comprehension.
But your whole correspondence and relations with Oberstein are within our knowledge. So
also are the circumstances connected with the death of young Cadogan West. Let me advise
you to gain at least the small credit for repentance and confession, since there are still
some details which we can only learn from your lips.
The man groaned and sank his face in his hands. We waited, but
he was silent.
I can assure you, said Holmes, that every
essential is already known. We know that you were pressed for money; that you took an
impress of the keys which your brother held; and that you entered into a correspondence
with Oberstein, who answered your letters through the advertisement columns of the Daily
Telegraph. We are aware that you went down to the office in the fog on Monday night,
but that you were seen and followed by young Cadogan West, who had probably some previous
reason to suspect you. He saw your theft, but could not give the alarm, as it was just
possible that you were taking the papers to your brother in London. Leaving all his
private concerns, like the good citizen that he was, he followed you closely in the fog
and kept at your heels until you reached this very house. There he intervened, and then it
was, Colonel Walter, that to treason you added the more terrible crime of murder.
I did not! I did not! Before God I swear that I did
not! cried our wretched prisoner.
Tell us, then, how Cadogan West met his end before you
laid him upon the roof of a railway carriage.
I will. I swear to you that I will. I did the rest. I
confess it. It was just as you say. A Stock Exchange debt had to be paid. I needed the
money badly. Oberstein offered me five thousand. It was to save myself from ruin. But as
to murder, I am as innocent as you.
What happened, then?
He had his suspicions before, and he followed me as you
describe. I never knew it until I was at the very door. It was thick fog, and one could
not see three yards. I had given two taps and Oberstein had come to the door. The young
man rushed up and demanded to know what we were about to do with the papers. Oberstein had
a short life-preserver. He always carried it with him. As West forced his way after us
into the house Oberstein struck him on the head. The blow was a fatal one. He was dead
within five minutes. There he lay in the hall, and we were at our wits end what to
do. Then Oberstein had this idea about the trains which halted under his back window. But
first he examined the papers which I had brought. He said that three of them were
essential, and that he must keep them. You cannot keep them, said I.
There will be a dreadful row at Woolwich if they are not returned. I
must keep them, said he, for they are so technical that it is impossible in
the time to make copies. Then they must all go back together to-night,
said I. He thought for a little, and then he cried out that he had it. Three I will
keep, said he. The others we will stuff into the pocket of this young man.
When he is found the whole business will assuredly be put to his account. I could see no
other way out of it, so we did as he suggested. We waited half an hour at the window
before a train stopped. It was so thick that nothing could be seen,  and we had no difficulty in lowering Wests body
on to the train. That was the end of the matter so far as I was concerned.
And your brother?
He said nothing, but he had caught me once with his
keys, and I think that he suspected. I read in his eyes that he suspected. As you know, he
never held up his head again.
There was silence in the room. It was broken by Mycroft
Can you not make reparation? It would ease your
conscience, and possibly your punishment.
What reparation can I make?
Where is Oberstein with the papers?
I do not know.
Did he give you no address?
He said that letters to the H�tel du Louvre, Paris,
would eventually reach him.
Then reparation is still within your power, said
I will do anything I can. I owe this fellow no
particular good-will. He has been my ruin and my downfall.
Here are paper and pen. Sit at this desk and write to my
dictation. Direct the envelope to the address given. That is right. Now the letter:
- DEAR SIR:
With regard to our transaction, you will no doubt have
observed by now that one essential detail is missing. I have a tracing which will
make it complete. This has involved me in extra trouble, however, and I must ask you for a
further advance of five hundred pounds. I will not trust it to the post, nor will I take
anything but gold or notes. I would come to you abroad, but it would excite remark if I
left the country at present. Therefore I shall expect to meet you in the smoking-room of
the Charing Cross Hotel at noon on Saturday. Remember that only English notes, or gold,
will be taken.
That will do very well. I shall be very much surprised if it does not fetch our
And it did! It is a matter of historythat secret history
of a nation which is often so much more intimate and interesting than its public
chronicles that Oberstein, eager to complete the coup of his lifetime, came to the
lure and was safely engulfed for fifteen years in a British prison. In his trunk were
found the invaluable Bruce-Partington plans, which he had put up for auction in all the
naval centres of Europe.
Colonel Walter died in prison towards the end of the second
year of his sentence. As to Holmes, he returned refreshed to his monograph upon the
Polyphonic Motets of Lassus, which has since been printed for private circulation, and is
said by experts to be the last word upon the subject. Some weeks afterwards I learned
incidentally that my friend spent a day at Windsor, whence he returned with a remarkably
fine emerald tie-pin. When I asked him if he had bought it, he answered that it was a
present from a certain gracious lady in whose interests he had once been fortunate enough
to carry out a small commission. He said no more; but I fancy that I could guess at that
ladys august name, and I have little doubt that the emerald pin will forever recall
to my friends memory the adventure of the Bruce-Partington plans.