If you could have looked into Allardyces back
shop, you would have seen a dead pig swung from a hook in the ceiling, and a gentleman in
his shirt sleeves furiously stabbing at it with this weapon. I was that energetic person,
and I have satisfied myself that by no exertion of my strength can I transfix the pig with
a single blow. Perhaps you would care to try?
Not for worlds. But why were you doing this?
Because it seemed to me to have an indirect bearing upon
the mystery of Woodmans Lee. Ah, Hopkins, I got your wire last night, and I have
been expecting you. Come and join us.
Our visitor was an exceedingly alert man, thirty years of age,
dressed in a quiet tweed suit, but retaining the erect bearing of one who was accustomed
to official  uniform. I
recognized him at once as Stanley Hopkins, a young police inspector, for whose future
Holmes had high hopes, while he in turn professed the admiration and respect of a pupil
for the scientific methods of the famous amateur. Hopkinss brow was clouded, and he
sat down with an air of deep dejection.
No, thank you, sir. I breakfasted before I came round. I
spent the night in town, for I came up yesterday to report.
And what had you to report?
Failure, sir, absolute failure.
You have made no progress?
Dear me! I must have a look at the matter.
I wish to heavens that you would, Mr. Holmes. Its
my first big chance, and I am at my wits end. For goodness sake, come down and
lend me a hand.
Well, well, it just happens that I have already read all
the available evidence, including the report of the inquest, with some care. By the way,
what do you make of that tobacco pouch, found on the scene of the crime? Is there no clue
Hopkins looked surprised.
It was the mans own pouch, sir. His initials were
inside it. And it was of sealskinand he was an old sealer.
But he had no pipe.
No, sir, we could find no pipe. Indeed, he smoked very
little, and yet he might have kept some tobacco for his friends.
No doubt. I only mention it because, if I had been
handling the case, I should have been inclined to make that the starting-point of my
investigation. However, my friend, Dr. Watson, knows nothing of this matter, and I should
be none the worse for hearing the sequence of events once more. Just give us some short
sketches of the essentials.
Stanley Hopkins drew a slip of paper from his pocket.
I have a few dates here which will give you the career
of the dead man, Captain Peter Carey. He was born in 45fifty years of age. He
was a most daring and successful seal and whale fisher. In 1883 he commanded the steam
sealer Sea Unicorn, of Dundee. He had then had several successful voyages in succession,
and in the following year, 1884, he retired. After that he travelled for some years, and
finally he bought a small place called Woodmans Lee, near Forest Row, in Sussex.
There he has lived for six years, and there he died just a week ago to-day.
There were some most singular points about the man. In
ordinary life, he was a strict Puritana silent, gloomy fellow. His household
consisted of his wife, his daughter, aged twenty, and two female servants. These last were
continually changing, for it was never a very cheery situation, and sometimes it became
past all bearing. The man was an intermittent drunkard, and when he had the fit on him he
was a perfect fiend. He has been known to drive his wife and daughter out of doors in the
middle of the night and flog them through the park until the whole village outside the
gates was aroused by their screams.
He was summoned once for a savage assault upon the old
vicar, who had called upon him to remonstrate with him upon his conduct. In short, Mr.
Holmes, you would go far before you found a more dangerous man than Peter Carey, and I
have heard that he bore the same character when he commanded his ship. He was known in the
trade as Black Peter, and the name was given him, not only on  account of his swarthy features and the colour of his
huge beard, but for the humours which were the terror of all around him. I need not say
that he was loathed and avoided by every one of his neighbours, and that I have not heard
one single word of sorrow about his terrible end.
You must have read in the account of the inquest about
the mans cabin, Mr. Holmes, but perhaps your friend here has not heard of it. He had
built himself a wooden outhousehe always called it the cabina few
hundred yards from his house, and it was here that he slept every night. It was a little,
single-roomed hut, sixteen feet by ten. He kept the key in his pocket, made his own bed,
cleaned it himself, and allowed no other foot to cross the threshold. There are small
windows on each side, which were covered by curtains and never opened. One of these
windows was turned towards the high road, and when the light burned in it at night the
folk used to point it out to each other and wonder what Black Peter was doing in there.
Thats the window, Mr. Holmes, which gave us one of the few bits of positive evidence
that came out at the inquest.
You remember that a stonemason, named Slater, walking
from Forest Row about one oclock in the morningtwo days before the
murderstopped as he passed the grounds and looked at the square of light still
shining among the trees. He swears that the shadow of a mans head turned sideways
was clearly visible on the blind, and that this shadow was certainly not that of Peter
Carey, whom he knew well. It was that of a bearded man, but the beard was short and
bristled forward in a way very different from that of the captain. So he says, but he had
been two hours in the public-house, and it is some distance from the road to the window.
Besides, this refers to the Monday, and the crime was done upon the Wednesday.
On the Tuesday, Peter Carey was in one of his blackest
moods, flushed with drink and as savage as a dangerous wild beast. He roamed about the
house, and the women ran for it when they heard him coming. Late in the evening, he went
down to his own hut. About two oclock the following morning, his daughter, who slept
with her window open, heard a most fearful yell from that direction, but it was no unusual
thing for him to bawl and shout when he was in drink, so no notice was taken. On rising at
seven, one of the maids noticed that the door of the hut was open, but so great was the
terror which the man caused that it was midday before anyone would venture down to see
what had become of him. Peeping into the open door, they saw a sight which sent them
flying, with white faces, into the village. Within an hour, I was on the spot and had
taken over the case.
Well, I have fairly steady nerves, as you know, Mr.
Holmes, but I give you my word, that I got a shake when I put my head into that little
house. It was droning like a harmonium with the flies and bluebottles, and the floor and
walls were like a slaughter-house. He had called it a cabin, and a cabin it was, sure
enough, for you would have thought that you were in a ship. There was a bunk at one end, a
sea-chest, maps and charts, a picture of the Sea Unicorn, a line of logbooks on a
shelf, all exactly as one would expect to find it in a captains room. And there, in
the middle of it, was the man himselfhis face twisted like a lost soul in torment,
and his great brindled beard stuck upward in his agony. Right through his broad breast a
steel harpoon had been driven, and it had sunk deep into the wood of the wall behind him.
He was pinned like a beetle on a card. Of course, he was quite dead, and had been so from
the instant that he had uttered that last yell of agony.
know your methods, sir, and I applied them. Before I permitted anything to be moved, I
examined most carefully the ground outside, and also the floor of the room. There were no
Meaning that you saw none?
I assure you, sir, that there were none.
My good Hopkins, I have investigated many crimes, but I
have never yet seen one which was committed by a flying creature. As long as the criminal
remains upon two legs so long must there be some indentation, some abrasion, some trifling
displacement which can be detected by the scientific searcher. It is incredible that this
blood-bespattered room contained no trace which could have aided us. I understand,
however, from the inquest that there were some objects which you failed to overlook?
The young inspector winced at my companions ironical
I was a fool not to call you in at the time, Mr. Holmes.
However, thats past praying for now. Yes, there were several objects in the room
which called for special attention. One was the harpoon with which the deed was committed.
It had been snatched down from a rack on the wall. Two others remained there, and there
was a vacant place for the third. On the stock was engraved SS. Sea Unicorn,
Dundee. This seemed to establish that the crime had been done in a moment of fury,
and that the murderer had seized the first weapon which came in his way. The fact that the
crime was committed at two in the morning, and yet Peter Carey was fully dressed,
suggested that he had an appointment with the murderer, which is borne out by the fact
that a bottle of rum and two dirty glasses stood upon the table.
Yes, said Holmes; I think that both
inferences are permissible. Was there any other spirit but rum in the room?
Yes, there was a tantalus containing brandy and whisky
on the sea-chest. It is of no importance to us, however, since the decanters were full,
and it had therefore not been used.
For all that, its presence has some significance,
said Holmes. However, let us hear some more about the objects which do seem to you
to bear upon the case.
There was this tobacco-pouch upon the table.
What part of the table?
It lay in the middle. It was of coarse sealskinthe
straight-haired skin, with a leather thong to bind it. Inside was P. C. on the
flap. There was half an ounce of strong ships tobacco in it.
Excellent! What more?
Stanley Hopkins drew from his pocket a drab-covered notebook.
The outside was rough and worn, the leaves discoloured. On the first page were written the
initials J. H. N. and the date 1883. Holmes laid it on the table
and examined it in his minute way, while Hopkins and I gazed over each shoulder. On the
second page were the printed letters C. P. R., and then came several sheets of
numbers. Another heading was Argentine, another Costa Rica, and
another San Paulo, each with pages of signs and figures after it.
What do you make of these? asked Holmes.
They appear to be lists of Stock Exchange securities. I
thought that J. H. N. were the initials of a broker, and that C. P.
R. may have been his client.
Try Canadian Pacific Railway, said Holmes.
Stanley Hopkins swore between his teeth, and struck his thigh
with his clenched hand.
a fool I have been! he cried. Of course, it is as you say. Then J. H.
N. are the only initials we have to solve. I have already examined the old Stock
Exchange lists, and I can find no one in 1883, either in the house or among the outside
brokers, whose initials correspond with these. Yet I feel that the clue is the most
important one that I hold. You will admit, Mr. Holmes, that there is a possibility that
these initials are those of the second person who was presentin other words, of the
murderer. I would also urge that the introduction into the case of a document relating to
large masses of valuable securities gives us for the first time some indication of a
motive for the crime.
Sherlock Holmess face showed that he was thoroughly
taken aback by this new development.
I must admit both your points, said he. I
confess that this notebook, which did not appear at the inquest, modifies any views which
I may have formed. I had come to a theory of the crime in which I can find no place for
this. Have you endeavoured to trace any of the securities here mentioned?
Inquiries are now being made at the offices, but I fear
that the complete register of the stockholders of these South American concerns is in
South America, and that some weeks must elapse before we can trace the shares.
Holmes had been examining the cover of the notebook with his
Surely there is some discolouration here, said he.
Yes, sir, it is a blood-stain. I told you that I picked
the book off the floor.
Was the blood-stain above or below?
On the side next the boards.
Which proves, of course, that the book was dropped after
the crime was committed.
Exactly, Mr. Holmes. I appreciated that point, and I
conjectured that it was dropped by the murderer in his hurried flight. It lay near the
I suppose that none of these securities have been found
among the property of the dead man?
Have you any reason to suspect robbery?
No, sir. Nothing seemed to have been touched.
Dear me, it is certainly a very interesting case. Then
there was a knife, was there not?
A sheath-knife, still in its sheath. It lay at the feet
of the dead man. Mrs. Carey has identified it as being her husbands property.
Holmes was lost in thought for some time.
Well, said he, at last, I suppose I shall
have to come out and have a look at it.
Stanley Hopkins gave a cry of joy.
Thank you, sir. That will, indeed, be a weight off my
Holmes shook his finger at the inspector.
It would have been an easier task a week ago, said
he. But even now my visit may not be entirely fruitless. Watson, if you can spare
the time, I should be very glad of your company. If you will call a four-wheeler, Hopkins,
we shall be ready to start for Forest Row in a quarter of an hour.
Alighting at the small wayside station, we drove for some
miles through the remains of widespread woods, which were once part of that great forest
which for  so long held
the Saxon invaders at baythe impenetrable weald, for sixty years the
bulwark of Britain. Vast sections of it have been cleared, for this is the seat of the
first iron-works of the country, and the trees have been felled to smelt the ore. Now the
richer fields of the North have absorbed the trade, and nothing save these ravaged groves
and great scars in the earth show the work of the past. Here, in a clearing upon the green
slope of a hill, stood a long, low, stone house, approached by a curving drive running
through the fields. Nearer the road, and surrounded on three sides by bushes, was a small
outhouse, one window and the door facing in our direction. It was the scene of the murder.
Stanley Hopkins led us first to the house, where he introduced
us to a haggard, gray-haired woman, the widow of the murdered man, whose gaunt and
deep-lined face, with the furtive look of terror in the depths of her red-rimmed eyes,
told of the years of hardship and ill-usage which she had endured. With her was her
daughter, a pale, fair-haired girl, whose eyes blazed defiantly at us as she told us that
she was glad that her father was dead, and that she blessed the hand which had struck him
down. It was a terrible household that Black Peter Carey had made for himself, and it was
with a sense of relief that we found ourselves in the sunlight again and making our way
along a path which had been worn across the fields by the feet of the dead man.
The outhouse was the simplest of dwellings, wooden-walled,
shingle-roofed, one window beside the door and one on the farther side. Stanley Hopkins
drew the key from his pocket and had stooped to the lock, when he paused with a look of
attention and surprise upon his face.
Someone has been tampering with it, he said.
There could be no doubt of the fact. The woodwork was cut, and
the scratches showed white through the paint, as if they had been that instant done.
Holmes had been examining the window.
Someone has tried to force this also. Whoever it was has
failed to make his way in. He must have been a very poor burglar.
This is a most extraordinary thing, said the
inspector, I could swear that these marks were not here yesterday evening.
Some curious person from the village, perhaps, I
Very unlikely. Few of them would dare to set foot in the
grounds, far less try to force their way into the cabin. What do you think of it, Mr.
I think that fortune is very kind to us.
You mean that the person will come again?
It is very probable. He came expecting to find the door
open. He tried to get in with the blade of a very small penknife. He could not manage it.
What would he do?
Come again next night with a more useful tool.
So I should say. It will be our fault if we are not
there to receive him. Meanwhile, let me see the inside of the cabin.
The traces of the tragedy had been removed, but the furniture
within the little room still stood as it had been on the night of the crime. For two
hours, with most intense concentration, Holmes examined every object in turn, but his face
showed that his quest was not a successful one. Once only he paused in his patient
Have you taken anything off this shelf,
No, I have moved nothing.
has been taken. There is less dust in this corner of the shelf than elsewhere. It may have
been a book lying on its side. It may have been a box. Well, well, I can do nothing more.
Let us walk in these beautiful woods, Watson, and give a few hours to the birds and the
flowers. We shall meet you here later, Hopkins, and see if we can come to closer quarters
with the gentleman who has paid this visit in the night.
It was past eleven oclock when we formed our little
ambuscade. Hopkins was for leaving the door of the hut open, but Holmes was of the opinion
that this would rouse the suspicions of the stranger. The lock was a perfectly simple one,
and only a strong blade was needed to push it back. Holmes also suggested that we should
wait, not inside the hut, but outside it, among the bushes which grew round the farther
window. In this way we should be able to watch our man if he struck a light, and see what
his object was in this stealthy nocturnal visit.
It was a long and melancholy vigil, and yet brought with it
something of the thrill which the hunter feels when he lies beside the water-pool, and
waits for the coming of the thirsty beast of prey. What savage creature was it which might
steal upon us out of the darkness? Was it a fierce tiger of crime, which could only be
taken fighting hard with flashing fang and claw, or would it prove to be some skulking
jackal, dangerous only to the weak and unguarded?
In absolute silence we crouched amongst the bushes, waiting
for whatever might come. At first the steps of a few belated villagers, or the sound of
voices from the village, lightened our vigil, but one by one these interruptions died
away, and an absolute stillness fell upon us, save for the chimes of the distant church,
which told us of the progress of the night, and for the rustle and whisper of a fine rain
falling amid the foliage which roofed us in.
Half-past two had chimed, and it was the darkest hour which
precedes the dawn, when we all started as a low but sharp click came from the direction of
the gate. Someone had entered the drive. Again there was a long silence, and I had begun
to fear that it was a false alarm, when a stealthy step was heard upon the other side of
the hut, and a moment later a metallic scraping and clinking. The man was trying to force
the lock. This time his skill was greater or his tool was better, for there was a sudden
snap and the creak of the hinges. Then a match was struck, and next instant the steady
light from a candle filled the interior of the hut. Through the gauze curtain our eyes
were all riveted upon the scene within.
The nocturnal visitor was a young man, frail and thin, with
a black moustache, which intensified the deadly pallor of his face. He could not have been
much above twenty years of age. I have never seen any human being who appeared to be in
such a pitiable fright, for his teeth were visibly chattering, and he was shaking in every
limb. He was dressed like a gentleman, in Norfolk jacket and knickerbockers, with a cloth
cap upon his head. We watched him staring round with frightened eyes. Then he laid the
candle-end upon the table and disappeared from our view into one of the corners. He
returned with a large book, one of the logbooks which formed a line upon the shelves.
Leaning on the table, he rapidly turned over the leaves of this volume until he came to
the entry which he sought. Then, with an angry gesture of his clenched hand, he closed the
book, replaced it in the corner, and put out the light. He had hardly turned to leave the
hut when Hopkinss hand was on the fellows collar, and I heard his loud gasp of
terror as he understood that he was taken. The candle was relit, and there was our
wretched captive, shivering  and
cowering in the grasp of the detective. He sank down upon the sea-chest, and looked
helplessly from one of us to the other.
Now, my fine fellow, said Stanley Hopkins,
who are you, and what do you want here?
The man pulled himself together, and faced us with an effort
You are detectives, I suppose? said he. You
imagine I am connected with the death of Captain Peter Carey. I assure you that I am
Well see about that, said Hopkins.
First of all, what is your name?
It is John Hopley Neligan.
I saw Holmes and Hopkins exchange a quick glance.
What are you doing here?
Can I speak confidentially?
No, certainly not.
Why should I tell you?
If you have no answer, it may go badly with you at the
The young man winced.
Well, I will tell you, he said. Why should I
not? And yet I hate to think of this old scandal gaining a new lease of life. Did you ever
hear of Dawson and Neligan?
I could see, from Hopkinss face, that he never had, but
Holmes was keenly interested.
You mean the West Country bankers, said he.
They failed for a million, ruined half the county families of Cornwall, and Neligan
Exactly. Neligan was my father.
At last we were getting something positive, and yet it seemed
a long gap between an absconding banker and Captain Peter Carey pinned against the wall
with one of his own harpoons. We all listened intently to the young mans words.
It was my father who was really concerned. Dawson had
retired. I was only ten years of age at the time, but I was old enough to feel the shame
and horror of it all. It has always been said that my father stole all the securities and
fled. It is not true. It was his belief that if he were given time in which to realize
them, all would be well and every creditor paid in full. He started in his little yacht
for Norway just before the warrant was issued for his arrest. I can remember that last
night, when he bade farewell to my mother. He left us a list of the securities he was
taking, and he swore that he would come back with his honour cleared, and that none who
had trusted him would suffer. Well, no word was ever heard from him again. Both the yacht
and he vanished utterly. We believed, my mother and I, that he and it, with the securities
that he had taken with him, were at the bottom of the sea. We had a faithful friend,
however, who is a business man, and it was he who discovered some time ago that some of
the securities which my father had with him had reappeared on the London market. You can
imagine our amazement. I spent months in trying to trace them, and at last, after many
doubtings and difficulties, I discovered that the original seller had been Captain Peter
Carey, the owner of this hut.
Naturally, I made some inquiries about the man. I found
that he had been in command of a whaler which was due to return from the Arctic seas at
the very time when my father was crossing to Norway. The autumn of that year was a stormy
one, and there was a long succession of southerly gales. My fathers yacht may well
have been blown to the north, and there met by Captain Peter Careys  ship. If that were so, what
had become of my father? In any case, if I could prove from Peter Careys evidence
how these securities came on the market it would be a proof that my father had not sold
them, and that he had no view to personal profit when he took them.
I came down to Sussex with the intention of seeing the
captain, but it was at this moment that his terrible death occurred. I read at the inquest
a description of his cabin, in which it stated that the old logbooks of his vessel were
preserved in it. It struck me that if I could see what occurred in the month of August,
1883, on board the Sea Unicorn, I might settle the mystery of my fathers
fate. I tried last night to get at these logbooks, but was unable to open the door.
To-night I tried again and succeeded, but I find that the pages which deal with that month
have been torn from the book. It was at that moment I found myself a prisoner in your
Is that all? asked Hopkins.
Yes, that is all. His eyes shifted as he said it.
You have nothing else to tell us?
No, there is nothing.
You have not been here before last night?
Then how do you account for that? cried
Hopkins, as he held up the damning notebook, with the initials of our prisoner on the
first leaf and the blood-stain on the cover.
The wretched man collapsed. He sank his face in his hands, and
trembled all over.
Where did you get it? he groaned. I did not
know. I thought I had lost it at the hotel.
That is enough, said Hopkins, sternly.
Whatever else you have to say, you must say in court. You will walk down with me now
to the police-station. Well, Mr. Holmes, I am very much obliged to you and to your friend
for coming down to help me. As it turns out your presence was unnecessary, and I would
have brought the case to this successful issue without you, but, none the less, I am
grateful. Rooms have been reserved for you at the Brambletye Hotel, so we can all walk
down to the village together.
Well, Watson, what do you think of it? asked
Holmes, as we travelled back next morning.
I can see that you are not satisfied.
Oh, yes, my dear Watson, I am perfectly satisfied. At
the same time, Stanley Hopkinss methods do not commend themselves to me. I am
disappointed in Stanley Hopkins. I had hoped for better things from him. One should always
look for a possible alternative, and provide against it. It is the first rule of criminal
What, then, is the alternative?
The line of investigation which I have myself been
pursuing. It may give us nothing. I cannot tell. But at least I shall follow it to the
Several letters were waiting for Holmes at Baker Street. He
snatched one of them up, opened it, and burst out into a triumphant chuckle of laughter.
Excellent, Watson! The alternative develops. Have you
telegraph forms? Just write a couple of messages for me: Sumner, Shipping Agent,
Ratcliff Highway.  Send
three men on, to arrive ten to-morrow morning.Basil. Thats my name in
those parts. The other is: Inspector Stanley Hopkins, 46 Lord Street, Brixton. Come
breakfast to-morrow at nine-thirty. Important. Wire if unable to come.Sherlock
Holmes. There, Watson, this infernal case has haunted me for ten days. I hereby
banish it completely from my presence. To-morrow, I trust that we shall hear the last of
Sharp at the hour named Inspector Stanley Hopkins appeared,
and we sat down together to the excellent breakfast which Mrs. Hudson had prepared. The
young detective was in high spirits at his success.
You really think that your solution must be
correct? asked Holmes.
I could not imagine a more complete case.
It did not seem to me conclusive.
You astonish me, Mr. Holmes. What more could one ask
Does your explanation cover every point?
Undoubtedly. I find that young Neligan arrived at the
Brambletye Hotel on the very day of the crime. He came on the pretence of playing golf.
His room was on the ground-floor, and he could get out when he liked. That very night he
went down to Woodmans Lee, saw Peter Carey at the hut, quarrelled with him, and
killed him with the harpoon. Then, horrified by what he had done, he fled out of the hut,
dropping the notebook which he had brought with him in order to question Peter Carey about
these different securities. You may have observed that some of them were marked with
ticks, and the othersthe great majority were not. Those which are ticked have
been traced on the London market, but the others, presumably, were still in the possession
of Carey, and young Neligan, according to his own account, was anxious to recover them in
order to do the right thing by his fathers creditors. After his flight he did not
dare to approach the hut again for some time, but at last he forced himself to do so in
order to obtain the information which he needed. Surely that is all simple and
Holmes smiled and shook his head.
It seems to me to have only one drawback, Hopkins, and
that is that it is intrinsically impossible. Have you tried to drive a harpoon through a
body? No? Tut, tut, my dear sir, you must really pay attention to these details. My friend
Watson could tell you that I spent a whole morning in that exercise. It is no easy matter,
and requires a strong and practised arm. But this blow was delivered with such violence
that the head of the weapon sank deep into the wall. Do you imagine that this anaemic
youth was capable of so frightful an assault? Is he the man who hobnobbed in rum and water
with Black Peter in the dead of the night? Was it his profile that was seen on the blind
two nights before? No, no, Hopkins, it is another and more formidable person for whom we
The detectives face had grown longer and longer during
Holmess speech. His hopes and his ambitions were all crumbling about him. But he
would not abandon his position without a struggle.
You cant deny that Neligan was present that night,
Mr. Holmes. The book will prove that. I fancy that I have evidence enough to satisfy a
jury, even if you are able to pick a hole in it. Besides, Mr. Holmes, I have laid my hand
upon my man. As to this terrible person of yours, where is he?
I rather fancy that he is on the stair, said
Holmes, serenely. I think, Watson, that you would do well to put that revolver where
you can reach it. He rose and laid a written paper upon a side-table. Now we
are ready, said he.
had been some talking in gruff voices outside, and now Mrs. Hudson opened the door to say
that there were three men inquiring for Captain Basil.
Show them in one by one, said Holmes.
The first who entered was a little Ribston pippin of a man,
with ruddy cheeks and fluffy white side-whiskers. Holmes had drawn a letter from his
What name? he asked.
I am sorry, Lancaster, but the berth is full. Here is
half a sovereign for your trouble. Just step into this room and wait there for a few
The second man was a long, dried-up creature, with lank hair
and sallow cheeks. His name was Hugh Pattins. He also received his dismissal, his
half-sovereign, and the order to wait.
The third applicant was a man of remarkable appearance. A
fierce bull-dog face was framed in a tangle of hair and beard, and two bold, dark eyes
gleamed behind the cover of thick, tufted, overhung eyebrows. He saluted and stood
sailor-fashion, turning his cap round in his hands.
Your name? asked Holmes.
Yes, sir. Twenty-six voyages.
Dundee, I suppose?
And ready to start with an exploring ship?
Eight pounds a month.
Could you start at once?
As soon as I get my kit.
Have you your papers?
Yes, sir. He took a sheaf of worn and greasy forms
from his pocket. Holmes glanced over them and returned them.
You are just the man I want, said he.
Heres the agreement on the side-table. If you sign it the whole matter will be
The seaman lurched across the room and took up the pen.
Shall I sign here? he asked, stooping over the
Holmes leaned over his shoulder and passed both hands over
This will do, said he.
I heard a click of steel and a bellow like an enraged bull.
The next instant Holmes and the seaman were rolling on the ground together. He was a man
of such gigantic strength that, even with the handcuffs which Holmes had so deftly
fastened upon his wrists, he would have very quickly overpowered my friend had Hopkins and
I not rushed to his rescue. Only when I pressed the cold muzzle of the revolver to his
temple did he at last understand that resistance was vain. We lashed his ankles with cord,
and rose breathless from the struggle.
I must really apologize, Hopkins, said Sherlock
Holmes. I fear that the scrambled eggs are cold. However, you will enjoy the rest of
your breakfast all the better, will you not, for the thought that you have brought your
case to a triumphant conclusion.
Stanley Hopkins was speechless with amazement.
dont know what to say, Mr. Holmes, he blurted out at last, with a very red
face. It seems to me that I have been making a fool of myself from the beginning. I
understand now, what I should never have forgotten, that I am the pupil and you are the
master. Even now I see what you have done, but I dont know how you did it or what it
Well, well, said Holmes, good-humouredly. We
all learn by experience, and your lesson this time is that you should never lose sight of
the alternative. You were so absorbed in young Neligan that you could not spare a thought
to Patrick Cairns, the true murderer of Peter Carey.
The hoarse voice of the seaman broke in on our conversation.
See here, mister, said he, I make no
complaint of being man-handled in this fashion, but I would have you call things by their
right names. You say I murdered Peter Carey, I say I killed Peter Carey, and
theres all the difference. Maybe you dont believe what I say. Maybe you think
I am just slinging you a yarn.
Not at all, said Holmes. Let us hear what
you have to say.
Its soon told, and, by the Lord, every word of it
is truth. I knew Black Peter, and when he pulled out his knife I whipped a harpoon through
him sharp, for I knew that it was him or me. Thats how he died. You can call it
murder. Anyhow, Id as soon die with a rope round my neck as with Black Peters
knife in my heart.
How came you there? asked Holmes.
Ill tell it you from the beginning. Just sit me up
a little, so as I can speak easy. It was in 83 that it happenedAugust of that
year. Peter Carey was master of the Sea Unicorn, and I was spare harpooner. We
were coming out of the ice-pack on our way home, with head winds and a weeks
southerly gale, when we picked up a little craft that had been blown north. There was one
man on her a landsman. The crew had thought she would founder and had made for the
Norwegian coast in the dinghy. I guess they were all drowned. Well, we took him on board,
this man, and he and the skipper had some long talks in the cabin. All the baggage we took
off with him was one tin box. So far as I know, the mans name was never mentioned,
and on the second night he disappeared as if he had never been. It was given out that he
had either thrown himself overboard or fallen overboard in the heavy weather that we were
having. Only one man knew what had happened to him, and that was me, for, with my own
eyes, I saw the skipper tip up his heels and put him over the rail in the middle watch of
a dark night, two days before we sighted the Shetland Lights.
Well, I kept my knowledge to myself, and waited to see
what would come of it. When we got back to Scotland it was easily hushed up, and nobody
asked any questions. A stranger died by accident, and it was nobodys business to
inquire. Shortly after Peter Carey gave up the sea, and it was long years before I could
find where he was. I guessed that he had done the deed for the sake of what was in that
tin box, and that he could afford now to pay me well for keeping my mouth shut.
I found out where he was through a sailor man that
had met him in London, and down I went to squeeze him. The first night he was reasonable
enough, and was ready to give me what would make me free of the sea for life. We were to
fix it all two nights later. When I came, I found him three parts drunk and in a vile
temper. We sat down and we drank and we yarned about old times, but the more he drank the
less I liked the look on his face. I spotted that harpoon upon the wall, and I thought I
might need it before I was through. Then at last he broke out at  me, spitting and cursing, with murder in his eyes and a
great clasp-knife in his hand. He had not time to get it from the sheath before I had the
harpoon through him. Heavens! what a yell he gave! and his face gets between me and my
sleep. I stood there, with his blood splashing round me, and I waited for a bit, but all
was quiet, so I took heart once more. I looked round, and there was the tin box on the
shelf. I had as much right to it as Peter Carey, anyhow, so I took it with me and left the
hut. Like a fool I left my baccy-pouch upon the table.
Now Ill tell you the queerest part of the whole
story. I had hardly got outside the hut when I heard someone coming, and I hid among the
bushes. A man came slinking along, went into the hut, gave a cry as if he had seen a
ghost, and legged it as hard as he could run until he was out of sight. Who he was or what
he wanted is more than I can tell. For my part I walked ten miles, got a train at
Tunbridge Wells, and so reached London, and no one the wiser.
Well, when I came to examine the box I found there was
no money in it, and nothing but papers that I would not dare to sell. I had lost my hold
on Black Peter and was stranded in London without a shilling. There was only my trade
left. I saw these advertisements about harpooners, and high wages, so I went to the
shipping agents, and they sent me here. Thats all I know, and I say again that if I
killed Black Peter, the law should give me thanks, for I saved them the price of a hempen
A very clear statement, said Holmes, rising and
lighting his pipe. I think, Hopkins, that you should lose no time in conveying your
prisoner to a place of safety. This room is not well adapted for a cell, and Mr. Patrick
Cairns occupies too large a proportion of our carpet.
Mr. Holmes, said Hopkins, I do not know how
to express my gratitude. Even now I do not understand how you attained this result.
Simply by having the good fortune to get the right clue
from the beginning. It is very possible if I had known about this notebook it might have
led away my thoughts, as it did yours. But all I heard pointed in the one direction. The
amazing strength, the skill in the use of the harpoon, the rum and water, the sealskin
tobacco-pouch with the coarse tobaccoall these pointed to a seaman, and one who had
been a whaler. I was convinced that the initials P. C. upon the pouch were a
coincidence, and not those of Peter Carey, since he seldom smoked, and no pipe was found
in his cabin. You remember that I asked whether whisky and brandy were in the cabin. You
said they were. How many landsmen are there who would drink rum when they could get these
other spirits? Yes, I was certain it was a seaman.
And how did you find him?
My dear sir, the problem had become a very simple one.
If it were a seaman, it could only be a seaman who had been with him on the Sea
Unicorn. So far as I could learn he had sailed in no other ship. I spent three days
in wiring to Dundee, and at the end of that time I had ascertained the names of the crew
of the Sea Unicorn in 1883. When I found Patrick Cairns among the harpooners, my
research was nearing its end. I argued that the man was probably in London, and that he
would desire to leave the country for a time. I therefore spent some days in the East End,
devised an Arctic expedition, put forth tempting terms for harpooners who would serve
under Captain Basiland behold the result!
Wonderful! cried Hopkins. Wonderful!
You must obtain the release of young Neligan as soon as
possible, said Holmes.  I
confess that I think you owe him some apology. The tin box must be returned to him, but,
of course, the securities which Peter Carey has sold are lost forever. Theres the
cab, Hopkins, and you can remove your man. If you want me for the trial, my address and
that of Watson will be somewhere in Norway Ill send particulars later.