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.
Youre surprised to see me, sir, said he, in
a strange, croaking voice.
I acknowledged that I was.
Well, Ive a conscience, sir, and when I chanced to
see you go into this house, as I came hobbling after you, I thought to myself, Ill
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
You make too much of a trifle, said I. May I
ask how you knew who I was?
Well, sir, if it isnt too great a liberty, I am a
neighbour of yours, for youll find my little bookshop at the corner of Church
Street, and very happy to see you, I am sure. Maybe you collect yourself, sir. Heres
British Birds, and Catullus, and The Holy Wara 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
My dear Watson, said the well-remembered voice,
I owe you a thousand apologies. I had no idea that you would be so affected.
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
Wait a moment, said he. Are you sure that
you are really fit to discuss things? I have given you a serious shock by my unnecessarily
I am all right, but indeed, Holmes, I can hardly believe
my eyes. Good heavens! to think that youyou of all menshould be standing in my
study. Again I gripped him by the sleeve, and felt the thin, sinewy arm beneath it.
Well, youre not a spirit, anyhow, said I. My dear chap, Im
overjoyed to see you. Sit down, and tell me how you came alive out of that dreadful
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 nights work in front of us. Perhaps it
would be better if I gave you an account of the whole situation when that work is
I am full of curiosity. I should much prefer to hear
Youll 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 Reichenbach Fall.
I stood up and examined the rocky wall behind me. In
your picturesque account of the matter, which I read with great interest some months
later, you assert that the wall was sheer. That was not literally true. A few small
footholds presented 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 Moriartys 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 mans 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 confederateand even that one glance had told me how dangerous
a man that confederate washad kept guard while the Professor had attacked me. From a
distance, unseen by me, he had been a witness of his friends 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 dont 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 confidantmy 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 oclock 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 mans 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 onewhile the sardonic
smile which occasionally broke through his ascetic gloom boded little good for the object
of our quest.
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. Holmess 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. Holmess 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 others figures within.
My companion put his hand upon my shoulder and his lips close to my ear.
Do you know where we are? he whispered.
Surely that is Baker Street, I answered, staring
through the dim window.
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
roomsthe starting-point of so many of your little fairy-tales? We will see if my
three years of absence have entirely taken away my power to surprise you.
I crept forward and looked across at the familiar window.
As my eyes fell upon it, I gave a gasp and a cry of amazement. The blind was down, and a
strong light was burning in the room. The shadow of a man who was seated in a chair within
was thrown in hard, black outline upon the luminous screen of the window. There was no
mistaking the poise of the head, the squareness of the shoulders, the sharpness of the
features. The face was turned half-round, and the effect was that of one of those black
silhouettes which our grandparents loved to frame. It was a perfect reproduction of
Holmes. So amazed was I that I threw out my hand to make sure that the man himself was
standing beside me. He was quivering with silent laughter.
Well? said he.
Good heavens! I cried. It is
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 really
And you thought the rooms were watched?
I knew that they were watched.
By my old enemies, Watson. By the charming society whose
leader lies in the Reichenbach Fall. You must remember that they knew, and only they knew,
that I was still alive. Sooner or later they believed that I should come back to my rooms.
They watched them continuously, and this morning they saw me arrive.
How do you know?
Because I recognized their sentinel when I glanced out
of my window. He is a harmless enough fellow, Parker by name, a garroter by trade, and a
remarkable performer upon the jews-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 friends 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 companions 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 Holmess 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 his own.
Of course it has moved, said he. Am I such a
farcical bungler, Watson, that I should erect an obvious dummy, and expect that some of
the sharpest men in Europe would be deceived by it? We have been in this room two hours,
and Mrs. Hudson has made some change in that figure eight times, or once in every quarter
of an hour. She works it from the front, so that her shadow may never be seen. Ah!
He drew in his breath with a shrill, excited intake. In the dim light I saw his head
thrown forward, his whole attitude rigid with attention. Outside the street was absolutely
deserted. Those two men might still be crouching in the doorway, but I  could no longer see them. All was
still and dark, save only that brilliant yellow screen in front of us with the black
figure outlined upon its centre. Again in the utter silence I heard that thin, sibilant
note which spoke of intense suppressed excitement. An instant later he pulled me back into
the blackest corner of the room, and I felt his warning hand upon my lips. The fingers
which clutched me were quivering. Never had I known my friend more moved, and yet the dark
street still stretched lonely and motionless before us.
But suddenly I was aware of that which his keener senses
had already distinguished. A low, stealthy sound came to my ears, not from the direction
of Baker Street, but from the back of the very house in which we lay concealed. A door
opened and shut. An instant later steps crept down the passagesteps 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 marksmans 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.
Mr. Holmes. I took the job myself. Its good to see you back in London, sir.
I think you want a little unofficial help. Three
undetected murders in one year wont do, Lestrade. But you handled the Molesey
Mystery with less than your usualthats to say, you handled it fairly
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 Natures
plainest danger-signals. He took no heed of any of us, but his eyes were fixed upon
Holmess 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
dont 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 Majestys 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
I wonder that my very simple stratagem could deceive so
old a shikari, said Holmes. It must be very familiar to you. Have you
not tethered a young kid under a tree, lain above it with your rifle, and waited for the
bait to bring up your tiger? This empty house is my tree, and you are my tiger. You have
possibly had other guns in reserve in case there should be several tigers, or in the
unlikely supposition of your own aim failing you. These, he pointed around,
are my other guns. The parallel is exact.
Colonel Moran sprang forward with a snarl of rage, but the
constables dragged him back. The fury upon his face was terrible to look at.
I confess that you had one small surprise for me,
said Holmes. I did not anticipate that you would yourself make use of this empty
house and this convenient front window. I had imagined you as operating from the street,
where my friend Lestrade and his merry men were awaiting you. With that exception, all has
gone as I expected.
Colonel Moran turned to the official detective.
You may or may not have just cause for arresting
me, said he, but at least there can be no reason why I should submit to the
gibes of this person. If I am in the hands of the law, let things be done in a legal
Well, thats reasonable enough, said
Lestrade. Nothing further you have to say, Mr. Holmes, before we go?
had picked up the powerful air-gun from the floor, and was examining its mechanism.
An admirable and unique weapon, said he,
noiseless and of tremendous power: I knew Von Herder, the blind German mechanic, who
constructed it to the order of the late Professor Moriarty. For years I have been aware of
its existence, though I have never before had the opportunity of handling it. I commend it
very specially to your attention, Lestrade, and also the bullets which fit it.
You can trust us to look after that, Mr. Holmes,
said Lestrade, as the whole party moved towards the door. Anything further to
Only to ask what charge you intend to prefer?
What charge, sir? Why, of course, the attempted murder
of Mr. Sherlock Holmes.
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
vainColonel 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. Thats the charge, Lestrade. And now, Watson,
if you can endure the draught from a broken window, I think that half an hour in my study
over a cigar may afford you some profitable amusement.
Our old chambers had been left unchanged through the
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-rackeven the Persian slipper which contained the tobaccoall met my eyes
as I glanced round me. There were two occupants of the roomone, Mrs. Hudson, who
beamed upon us both as we enteredthe other, the strange dummy which had played so
important a part in the evenings 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 Holmess so draped round it that the illusion from
the street was absolutely perfect.
I hope you observed all precautions, Mrs. Hudson?
I went to it on my knees, sir, just as you told
Excellent. You carried the thing out very well. Did you
observe where the bullet went?
Yes, sir. Im 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. Theres genius in that, for who would expect to find such a thing
fired from an air-gun? All right, Mrs. Hudson. I am much obliged for your assistance. And
now, Watson, let me see you in your old seat once more, for there are several points which
I should like to discuss with you.
had thrown off the seedy frockcoat, and now he was the Holmes of old in the mouse-coloured
dressing-gown which he took from his effigy.
The old shikaris 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 Ms 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
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 Holmess precise hand:
- The second most dangerous man in London.
This is astonishing, said I, as I handed back
the volume. The mans 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
It is surely rather fanciful.
Well, I dont insist upon it. Whatever the cause,
Colonel Moran began to go wrong. Without any open scandal, he still made India too hot to
hold him. He retired, came to London, and again acquired an evil name. It was at this time
that he was sought out by Professor Moriarty, to whom for a time he was chief of the
staff. Moriarty supplied him liberally with money, and used him only in one or two very
high-class jobs, which no ordinary criminal could have undertaken. You may have some
recollection of the death of Mrs. Stewart, of Lauder, in 1887. Not? Well, I am sure Moran
was at the bottom of it, but nothing could be proved. So cleverly was the colonel
concealed that, even when the Moriarty gang was broken up, we could not incriminate him.
You remember at that date, when I called upon 
you in your rooms, how I put up the 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 Reichenbach ledge.
You may think that I read the papers with some attention
during my sojourn in France, on the look-out for any chance of laying him by the heels. So
long as he was free in London, my life would really not have been worth living. Night and
day the shadow would have been over me, and sooner or later his chance must have come.
What could I do? I could not shoot him at sight, or I should myself be in the dock. There
was no use appealing to a magistrate. They cannot interfere on the strength of what would
appear to them to be a wild suspicion. So I could do nothing. But I watched the criminal
news, knowing that sooner or later I should get him. Then came the death of this Ronald
Adair. My chance had come at last. Knowing what I did, was it not certain that Colonel
Moran had done it? He had played cards with the lad, he had followed him home from the
club, he had shot him through the open window. There was not a doubt of it. The bullets
alone are enough to put his head in a noose. I came over at once. I was seen by the
sentinel, who would, I knew, direct the colonels 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 neededby the way, Watson,
you spotted their presence in that doorway with unerring accuracyI 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
Yes, said I. You have not made it clear what
was Colonel Morans 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, Moran undoubtedly played foulof 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 partners foul play. He
locked the door lest the ladies should surprise him and insist upon knowing what he was
doing with these names and coins. Will it pass?
I have no doubt that you have hit upon the truth.
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