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only withdrawn upon the third of last month.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