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22 May 1859, Edinburgh M.D., Kt, D.L., LL.D., Sportsman, Writer, Poet, Politician, Justicer, Spiritualist Crowborough, 7 July 1930

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The Adventure of the Three Garridebs

 

1 It may have been a comedy, or it may have been a tragedy. 2 It cost one man his reason, it cost me a bloodletting, and it cost yet another man the penalties of the law. 3 Yet there was certainly an element of comedy. 4 Well, you shall judge for yourselves.
5 I remember the date very well, for it was in the same month that Holmes refused a knighthood for services which may perhaps some day be described. 6 I only refer to the matter in passing, for in my position of partner and confidant I am obliged to be particularly careful to avoid any indiscretion. 7 I repeat, however, that this enables me to fix the date, which was the latter end of June, 1902, shortly after the conclusion of the South African War. 8 Holmes had spent several days in bed, as was his habit from time to time, but he emerged that morning with a long foolscap document in his hand and a twinkle of amusement in his austere grey eyes.
9
'There is a chance for you to make some money, friend Watson,' said he. 10 'Have you ever heard the name of Garrideb?'
11 I admitted that I had not.
12 'Well, if you can lay your hands upon a Garrideb, there's money in it.'
13 'Why?'
14 'Ah, that's a long story - rather a whimsical one, too. 15 I don't think in all our explorations of human complexities we have ever come upon anything more singular. 16 The fellow will be here presently for cross-examination, so I won't open the matter up till he comes. 17 But meanwhile, that's the name we want.'
18 The telephone directory lay on the table beside me, and I turned over the pages in a rather hopeless quest. 19 But to my amazement there was this strange name in its due place. 20 I gave a cry of triumph.
21 'Here you are, Holmes! 22 Here it is!'
23 Holmes took the book from my hand.
24 '"Garrideb, N.,'" he read, '"136 Little Ryder Street, W." 25 Sorry to disappoint you, my dear Watson, but this is the man himself. 26 That is the address upon his letter. 27 We want another to match him.'
28 Mrs Hudson had come in with a card upon a tray. 29 I took it up and glanced at it.
30 'Why, here it is!' I cried in amazement. 31 'This is a different initial. 32 John Garrideb, Counsellor at Law, Moorville, Kansas, USA.'
33 Holmes smiled as he looked at the card. 34 'I am afraid you must make yet another effort, Watson,' said he. 35 'This gentleman is also in the plot already, though I certainly did not expect to see him this morning. 36 However, he is in a position to tell us a good deal which I want to know.'
37 A moment later he was in the room. 38 Mr John Garrideb, Counsellor at Law, was a short, powerful man with the round, fresh, clean-shaven face characteristic of so many American men of affairs. 39 The general effect was chubby and rather childlike, so that one received the impression of quite a young man with a broad set smile upon his face. 40 His eyes, however, were arresting. 41 Seldom in any human head have I seen a pair which bespoke a more intense inward life, so bright were they, so alert, so responsive to every change of thought. 42 His accent was American, but was not accompanied by any eccentricity of speech.
43 'Mr Holmes?' he asked, glancing from one to the other. 44 'Ah, yes! 45 Your pictures are not unlike you, sir, if I may say so. 46 I believe you have had a letter from my namesake, Mr Nathan Garrideb, have you not?'
47 'Pray sit down,' said Sherlock Holmes. 48 'We shall, I fancy, have a good deal to discuss.' 49 He took up his sheets of foolscap. 50 'You are, of course, the Mr John Garrideb mentioned in this document. 51 But surely you have been in England some time?'
52 'Why do you say that, Mr Holmes?' 53 I seemed to read sudden suspicion in those expressive eyes.
54 'Your whole outfit is English.'
55 Mr Garrideb forced a laugh. 56 'I've read of your tricks, Mr Holmes, but I never thought I would be the subject of them. 57 Where do you read that?'
58 'The shoulder cut of your coat, the toes of your boots-could anyone doubt it?'
59 'Well, well, I had no idea I was so obvious a Britisher. 60 But business brought me over here some time ago, and so, as you say, my outfit is nearly all London. 61 However, I guess your time is of value, and we did not meet to talk about the cut of my socks. 62 What about getting down to that paper you hold in your hand?'
63 Holmes had in some way ruffled our visitor, whose chubby face had assumed a far less amiable expression.
64 'Patience! 65 Patience, Mr Garrideb!' said my friend in a soothing voice. 66 'Dr Watson would tell you that these little digressions of mine sometimes prove in the end to have some bearing on the matter. 67 But why did Mr Nathan Garrideb not come with you?'
68 'Why did he ever drag you into it at all?' asked our visitor, with a sudden outflame of anger. 69 'What in thunder had you to do with it? 70 Here was a bit of professional business between two gentlemen, and one of them must needs call in a detective! 71 I saw him this morning, and he told me this fool trick he had played me, and that's why I am here. 72 But I feel bad about it, all the same.'
73 'There was no reflection upon you, Mr Garrideb. 74 It was simply zeal upon his part to gain your end - an end which is, I understand, equally vital for both of you. 75 He knew that I had means of getting information, and, therefore, it was very natural that he should apply to me.'
76 Our visitor's angry face gradually cleared.
77 'Well, that puts it different,' said he. 78 'When I went to see him this morning and he told me he had sent to a detective, I just asked for your address and came right away. 79 I don't want police butting into a private matter. 80 But if you are content just to help us find the man, there can be no harm in that.'
81 'Well, that is just how it stands,' said Holmes. 82 'And now, sir, since you are here, we had best have a clear account from your own lips. 83 My friend here knows nothing of the details.'
84 Mr Garrideb surveyed me with not too friendly a gaze.
85 'Need he know?' he asked.
86 'We usually work together.'
87 'Well, there's no reason it should be kept a secret. 88 I'll give you the facts as short as I can make them. 89 If you came from Kansas I would not need to explain to you who Alexander Hamilton Garrideb was. 90 He made his money in real estate, and afterwards in the wheat pit at Chicago, but he spent it in buying up as much land as would make one of your counties, lying along the Arkansas River, west of Fort Dodge. 91 It's grazing-land and lumber-land and arable land and mineralized land, and just every sort of land that brings dollars to the man that owns it.
92 'He had no kith nor kin - or, if he had, I never heard of it. 93 But he took a kind of pride in the queerness of his name. 94 That was what brought us together. 95 I was in the law at Topeka, and one day I had a visit from the old man, and he was tickled to death to meet another man with his own name. 96 It was his pet fad, and he was dead set to find out if there were any more Garridebs in the world. 97 "Find me another!" said he. 98 I told him I was a busy man and could not spend my life hiking round the world in search of Garridebs. 99 "None the less," said he, "that is just what you will do if things pan out as I planned them." 100 I thought he was joking, but there was a powerful lot of meaning in the words, as I was soon to discover.
101 'For he died within a year of saying them, and he left a will behind him. 102 It was the queerest will that has ever been filed in the State of Kansas. 103 His property was divided into three parts, and I was to have one in condition that I found two Garridebs who would share the remainder. 104 It's five million dollars for each if it is a cent, but we can't lay a finger on it until we all three stand in a row.
105 'It was so big a chance that I just let my legal practice slide and I set forth looking for Garridebs. 106 There is not one in the United States. 107 I went through it, sir, with a finetoothed comb and never a Garrideb could I catch. 108 Then I tried the old country. 109 Sure enough there was the name in the London Telephone Directory. 110 I went after him two days ago and explained the whole matter to him. 111 But he is a lone man, like myself, with some women relations, but no men. 112 It says three adult men in the will. 113 So you see we still have a vacancy, and if you can help to fill it we will be very ready to pay your charges.'
114 'Well, Watson,' said Holmes, with a smile, 'I said it was rather whimsical, did I not? 115 I should have thought, sir, that your obvious way was to advertise in the agony columns of the papers.'
116 'I have done that, Mr Holmes. 117 No replies.'
118 'Dear me! 119 Well, it is certainly a most curious little problem. 120 I may take a glance at it in my leisure. 121 By the way, it is curious that you should have come from Topeka. 122 I used to have a correspondent - he is dead now - old Dr Lysander Starr, who was Mayor in 1890.'
123 'Good old Dr Starr!' said our visitor. 124 'His name is still honoured. 125 Well, Mr Holmes, I suppose all we can do is to report to you and let you know how we progress. 126 I reckon you will hear within a day or two.' 127 With this assurance our American bowed and departed.
128 Holmes had lit his pipe, and he sat for some time with a curious smile upon his face.
129 'Well?' I asked at last.
130 'I am wondering, Watson - just wondering!'
131 'At what?'
132 Holmes took his pipe from his lips.
133 'I am wondering, Watson, what on earth could be the object of this man in telling us such a rigmarole of lies. 134 I nearly asked him so - for there are times when a brutal frontal attack is the best policy - but I judged it better to let him think he had fooled us. 135 Here is a man with an English coat frayed at the elbow and trousers bagged at the knee with a year's wear, and yet by this document and by his own account he is a provincial American lately landed in London. 136 There have been no advertisements in the agony columns. 137 You know that I miss nothing there. 138 They are my favourite covert for putting up a bird, and I would never have overlooked such a cock pheasant as that. 139 I never knew a Dr Lysander Starr of Topeka. 140 Touch him where you would he was false. 141 I think the fellow is really an American, but he has worn his accent smooth with years of London. 142 What is his game, then, and what motive lies behind this preposterous search for Garridebs? 143 It's worth our attention, for, granting that the man is a rascal, he is certainly a complex and ingenious one. 144 We must now find out if our other correspondent is a fraud also. 145 Just ring him up, Watson.'
146 I did so, and heard a thin, quavering voice at the other end of the line.
147 'Yes, yes, I am Mr Nathan Garrideb. 148 Is Mr Holmes there? 149 I should very much like to have a word with Mr Holmes.'
150 My friend took the instrument and I heard the usual syncopated dialogue.
151 'Yes, he has been here. 152 I understand that you don't know him... 153 How lone?... 154 Only two days!... 155 Yes, yes, of course, it is a most captivating prospect. 156 Will you be at home this evening? 157 I suppose your namesake will not be there?... 158 Very good, we will come then, for I would rather have a chat without him... 159 Dr Watson will come with me... 160 I understood from your note that you did not go out often... 161 Well, we shall be round about six. 162 You need not mention it to the American lawyer... 163 Very good. 164 Goodbye!'165 It was twilight of a lovely spring evening, and even Little Ryder Street, one of the smaller offshoots from the Edgware Road, within a stone-cast of old Tyburn Tree of evil memory, looked golden and wonderful in the slanting rays of the setting sun. 166 The particular house to which we were directed was a large, old-fashioned, Early Georgian edifice with a flat brick face broken only by two deep bay windows on the ground floor. 167 It was on this ground floor that our client lived, and, indeed, the low windows proved to be the front of the huge room in which he spent his waking hours. 168 Holmes pointed as we passed to the small brass plate which bore the curious name.
169 'Up some years, Watson,' he remarked, indicating its discoloured surface. 170 'It's his real name, anyhow, and that is something to note.'
171 The house had a common stair, and there were a number of names painted in the hall, some indicating offices and some private chambers. 172 It was not a collection of residential flats, but rather the abode of Bohemian bachelors. 173 Our client opened the door for us himself and apologized by saying that the woman in charge left at four o'clock. 174 Mr Nathan Garrideb proved to be a very tall loose-jointed, round-backed person, gaunt and bald, some sixty-odd years of age. 175 He had a cadaverous face, with the dull dead skin of a man to whom exercise was unknown. 176 Large round spectacles and a small projecting goat's beard combined with his stooping attitude to give him an expression of peering curiosity. 177 The general effect, however, was amiable, though eccentric.
178 The room was as curious as its occupant. 179 It looked like a small museum. 180 It was both broad and deep, with cupboards and cabinets all round, crowded with specimens, geological and anatomical. 181 Cases of butterflies and moths flanked each side of the entrance. 182 A large table in the centre was littered with all sorts of debris, while the tall brass tube of a powerful microscope bristled up amongst them. 183 As I glanced round I was surprised at the universality of the man's interests. 184 Here was a case of ancient coins. 185 There was a cabinet of flint instruments. 186 Behind his central table was a large cupboard of fossil bones. 187 Above was a line of plaster skulls with such names as 'Neanderthal', 'Heidelberg', 'Cromagnon' printed beneath them. 188 It was clear that he was a student of many subjects. 189 As he stood in front of us now, he held a piece of chamois leather in his right hand with which he was polishing a coin.
190 'Syracusan - of the best period,' he explained, holding it up. 191 'They degenerated greatly towards the end. 192 At their best I hold them supreme, though some prefer the Alexandrian school. 193 You will find a chair here, Mr Holmes. 194 Pray allow me to clear these bones. 195 And you, sir - ah, yes, Dr Watson - if you would have the goodness to put the Japanese vase to one side. 196 You see round me my little interests in life. 197 My doctor lectures me about never going out, but why should I go out when I have so much to hold me here? 198 I can assure you that the adequate cataloguing of one of those cabinets would take me three good months.'
199 Holmes looked round him with curiosity.
200 'But do you tell me that you never go out?' he said.
201 'Now and again I drive down to Sotheby's or Christie's. 202 Otherwise I very seldom leave my room. 203 I am not too strong, and my researches are very absorbing. 204 But you can imagine, Mr Holmes, what a terrific shock - pleasant but terrific - it was for me when I heard of this unparalleled good fortune. 205 It only needs one more Garrideb to complete the matter, and surely we can find one. 206 I had a brother, but he is dead, and female relatives are disqualified. 207 But there must surely be others in the world. 208 I had heard that you handled strange cases, and that was why I sent to you. 209 Of course, this American gentleman is quite right, and I should have taken his advice first, but I acted for the best.'
210 'I think you acted very wisely indeed,' said Holmes. 211 'But are you really anxious to acquire an estate in America?'
212 'Certainly not, sir. 213 Nothing would induce me to leave my collection. 214 But this gentleman has assured me that he will buy me out as soon as we have established our claim. 215 Five million dollars was the sum named. 216 There are a dozen specimens in the market at the present moment which fill gaps in my collection, and which I am unable to purchase for want of a few hundred pounds. 217 Just think what I could do with five million dollars. 218 Why, I have the nucleus of a national collection. 219 I shall be the Hans Sloane of my age.'
220 His eyes gleamed behind his spectacles. 221 It was very clear that no pains would be spared by Mr Nathan Garrideb in finding a namesake.
222 'I merely called to make your acquaintance, and there is no reason why I should interrupt your studies,' said Holmes. 223 'I prefer to establish personal touch with those with whom I do business. 224 There are few questions I need ask, for I have your very clear narrative in my pocket, and I filled up the blanks when this American gentleman called. 225 I understand that up to this week you were unaware of his existence.'
226 'That is so. 227 He called last Tuesday.'
228 'Did he tell you of our interview to-day?'
229 'Yes, he came straight back to me. 230 He had been very angry.'
231 'Why should he be angry?'
232 'He seemed to think it was some reflection on his honour. 233 But he was quite cheerful again when he returned.'
234 'Did he suggest any course of action?'
235 'No, sir, he did not.'
236 'Has he had, or asked for, any money from you?'
237 'No, sir, never!'
238 'You see no possible object he has in view?'
239 'None, except what he states.'
240 'Did you tell him of our telephone appointment?'
241 'Yes, sir, I did.'
242 Holmes was lost in thought. 243 I could see that he was puzzled.
244 'Have you any articles of great value in your collection?'
245 'No, sir. 246 I am not a rich man. 247 It is a good collection, but not a very valuable one.'
248 'You have no fear of burglars?'
249 'Not the least.'
250 'How long have you been in these rooms?'
251 'Nearly five years.'
252 Holmes's cross-examination was interrupted by an imperative knocking at the door. 253 No sooner had our client unlatched it than the American lawyer burst excitedly into the room.
254 'Here you are!' he cried, waving a paper over his head. 255 'I thought I should be in time to get you. 256 Mr Nathan Garrideb, my congratulations! 257 You are a rich man, sir. 258 Our business is happily finished and all is well. 259 As to you, Mr Holmes, we can only say we are sorry if we have given you any useless trouble.'
260 He handed over the paper to our client, who stood staring at a marked advertisement. 261 Holmes and I leaned forward and read it over his shoulder. 262 This is how it ran:

263 HOWARD GARRIDEB
264 Constructor of Agricultural Machinery
265 Binders, reapers' steam and hand plows, drills, harrows, farmers' carts, buckboards, and all other appliances
266 Estimates for Artesian Wells
267 Apply Grosvenor Buildings, Aston

268 'Glorious!' gasped our host. 269 'That makes our third man.'
270 'I had opened up inquiries in Birmingham,' said the American, 'and my agent there has sent me this advertisement from a local paper. 271 We must hustle and put the thing through. 272 I have written to this man and told him that you will see him in his office to-morrow afternoon at four o'clock.'
273 'You want me to see him?'
274 'What do you say, Mr Holmes? 275 Don't you think it would be wiser? 276 Here am I, a wandering American with a wonderful tale. 277 Why should he believe what I tell him? 278 But you are a Britisher with solid references, and he is bound to take notice of what you say. 279 I would go with you if you wished, but I have a very busy day to-morrow, and I could always follow you if you are in any trouble.'
280 'Well, I have not made such a journey for years.'
281 'It is nothing, Mr Garrideb. 282 I have figured out your connections. 283 You leave at twelve and should be there soon after two. 284 Then you can be back the same night. 285 All you have to do is to see this man, explain the matter, and get an affidavit of his existence. 286 By the Lord!' he added hotly, 'considering I've come all the way from the centre of America, it is surely little enough if you go a hundred miles in order to put this matter through.'
287 'Quite so,' said Holmes. 288 'I think what this gentleman says is very true.'
289 Mr Nathan Garrideb shrugged his shoulders with a disconsolate air. 290 'Well, if you insist I shall go,' said he. 291 'It is certainly hard for me to refuse you anything, considering the glory of hope that you have brought into my life.'
292 'Then that is agreed,' said Holmes, 'and no doubt you will let me have a report as soon as you can.'
293 'I'll see to that,' said the American. 294 'Well,' he added, looking at his watch, 'I'll have to get on. 295 I'll call to-morrow, Mr Nathan, and see you off to Birmingham. 296 Coming my way, Mr Holmes? 297 Well, then, good-bye, and we may have good news for you to-morrow night.'
298 I noticed that my friend's face cleared when the American left the room, and the look of thoughtful perplexity had vanished.
299 'I wish I could look over your collection, Mr Garrideb,' said he. 300 'In my profession all sorts of odd knowledge comes useful, and this room of yours is a storehouse of it.'
301 Our client shone with pleasure and his eyes gleamed from behind his big glasses.
302 'I had always heard, sir, that you were a very intelligent man,' said he. 303 'I could take you round now, if you have the time.'
304 'Unfortunately, I have not. 305 But these specimens are so well labelled and classified that they hardly need your personal explanation. 306 If I should be able to look in to-morrow, I presume that there would be no objection to my glancing over them?'
307 'None at all. 308 You are most welcome. 309 The place will, of course, be shut up, but Mrs Saunders is in the basement up to four o'clock and would let you in with her key.'
310 'Well, I happen to be clear to-morrow afternoon. 311 If you would say a word to Mrs Saunders it would be quite in order. 312 By the way, who is your house-agent?'
313 Our client was amazed at the sudden question.
314 'Holloway and Steele, in the Edgware Road. 315 But why?'
316 'I am a bit of an archaeologist myself when it comes to houses,' said Holmes, laughing. 317 'I was wondering if this was Queen Anne or Georgian.'
318 'Georgian, beyond doubt.'
319 'Really. 320 I should have thought a little earlier. 321 However, it is easily ascertained. 322 Well, good-bye, Mr Garrideb, and may you have every success in your Birmingham journey.'
323 The house-agent's was close by, but we found that it was closed for the day, so we made our way back to Baker Street. 324 It was not till after dinner that Holmes reverted to the subject.
325 'Our little problem draws to a close,' said he. 326 'No doubt you have outlined the solution in your own mind.'
327 'I can make neither head nor tail of it.'
328 'The head is surely clear enough and the tail we should see to-morrow. 329 Did you notice nothing curious about that advertisement?'
330 'I saw that the word "plough" was mis-spelt.'
331 'Oh, you did notice that, did you? 332 Come, Watson, you improve all the time. 333 Yes, it was bad English but good American. 334 The printer had set it up as received. 335 Then the buckboards. 336 That is American also. 337 And artesian wells are commoner with them than with us. 338 It was a typical American advertisement, but purporting to be from an English firm. 339 What do you make of that?'
340 'I can only suppose that this American lawyer put it in himself. 341 What his object was I fail to understand.'
342 'Well, there are alternative explanations. 343 Anyhow, he wanted to get this good old fossil up to Birmingham. 344 That is very clear. 345 I might have told him that he was clearly going on a wild-goose chase, but, on second thoughts, it seemed better to clear the stage by letting him go. 346 To-morrow, Watson - well, to-morrow will speak for itself.'
347 Holmes was up and out early. 348 When he returned at lunchtime I noticed that his face was very grave.
349 'This is a more serious matter than I had expected, Watson,' said he. 350 'It is fair to tell you so, though I know it will be only an additional reason to you for running your head into danger. 351 I should know my Watson by now. 352 But there is danger, and you should know it.'
353 'Well, it is not the first we have shared, Holmes. 354 I hope it may not be the last. 355 What is the particular danger this time?'
356 'We are up against a very hard case. 357 I have identified Mr John Garrideb, Counsellor at Law. 358 He is none other than "Killer" Evans, of sinister and murderous reputation.'
359 'I fear I am none the wiser.'
360 'Ah, it is not part of your profession to carry about a portable Newgate Calendar in your memory. 361 I have been down to see friend Lestrade at the Yard. 362 There may be an occasional want of imaginative intuition down there, but they lead the world for thoroughness and method. 363 I had an idea that we might get on the track of our American friend in their records. 364 Sure enough, I found his chubby face smiling up at me from the Rogues' Portrait Gallery. 365 James Winter, alias Morecroft, alias Killer Evans, was the inscription below.' 366 Holmes drew an envelope from his pocket. 367 'I scribbled down a few points from his dossier. 368 Aged forty-six. 369 Native of Chicago. 370 Known to have shot three men in the States. 371 Escaped from penitentiary through political influence. 372 Came to London in 1893. 373 Shot a man over cards in a night-club in the Waterloo Road in January, 1895. 374 Man died, but he was shown to have been the aggressor in the row. 375 Dead man was identified as Rodger Prescott, famous as forger and coiner in Chicago. 376 Killer Evans released in 1901. 377 Has been under police supervision since, but so far as known has led an honest life. 378 Very dangerous man, usually carries arms and is prepared to use them. 379 That is our bird, Watson - a sporting bird, as you must admit.'
380 'But what is his game?'
381 'Well, it begins to define itself. 382 I have been to the houseagents. 383 Our client, as he told us, has been there five years. 384 It was unlet for a year before then. 385 The previous tenant was a gentleman at large named Waldron. 386 Waldron's appearance was well remembered at the office. 387 He had suddenly vanished and nothing more been heard of him. 388 He was a tall, bearded man with very dark features. 389 Now, Prescott, the man whom Killer Evans had shot, was, according to Scotland Yard, a tall, dark man with a beard. 390 As a working hypothesis, I think we may take it that Prescott, the American criminal, used to live in the very room which our innocent friend now devotes to his museum. 391 So at last we get a link, you see.'
392 'And the next link?'
393 'Well, we must go now and look for that.' 394 He took a revolver from the drawer and handed it to me.
395 'I have my old favourite with me. 396 If our Wild West friend tries to live up to his nickname, we must be ready for him. 397 I'll give you an hour for a siesta, Watson, and then I think it will be time for our Ryder Street adventure.'
398 It was just four o'clock when we reached the curious apartment of Nathan Garrideb. 399 Mrs Saunders, the caretaker, was about to leave, but she had no hesitation in admitting us, for the door shut with a spring lock and Holmes promised to see that all was safe before we left. 400 Shortly afterwards the outer door closed, her bonnet passed the bow window, and we knew that we were alone in the lower floor of the house. 401 Holmes made a rapid examination of the premises. 402 There was one cupboard in a dark corner which stood out a little from the wall. 403 It was behind this that we eventually crouched, while Holmes in a whisper outlined his intentions.
404 'He wanted to get our amiable friend out of his room-that is very clear, and, as the collector never went out, it took some planning to do it. 405 The whole of this Garrideb invention was apparently for no other end. 406 I must say, Watson, that there is a certain devilish ingenuity about it, even if the queer name of the tenant did give him an opening which he could hardly have expected. 407 He wove his plot with remarkable cunning.'
408 'But what did he want?'
409 'Well, that is what we are here to find out. 410 It has nothing whatever to do with our client, so far as I can read the situation. 411 It is something connected with the man he murdered - the man who may have been his confederate in crime. 412 There is some guilty secret in the room. 413 That is how I read it. 414 At first I thought our friend might have something in his collection more valuable than he knew - something worth the attention of a big criminal. 415 But the fact that Rodger Prescott of evil memory inhabited these rooms points to some deeper reason. 416 Well, Watson, we can but possess our souls in patience and see what the hour may bring.'
417 That hour was not long in striking. 418 We crouched closer in the shadow as we heard the outer door open and shut. 419 Then came the sharp, metallic snap of a key, and the American was in the room. 420 He closed the door softly behind him, took a sharp glance around him to see that all was safe, threw off his overcoat, and walked up to the central table with the brisk manner of one who knows exactly what he has to do and how to do it. 421 He pushed the table to one side, tore up the square of carpet on which it rested, rolled it completely back, and then, drawing a jemmy from his inside pocket, he knelt down and worked vigorously upon the floor. 422 Presently we heard the sound of sliding boards, and an instant later a square had opened in the planks. 423 Killer Evans struck a match, lit a stump of candle, and vanished from our view.
424 Clearly our moment had come. 425 Holmes touched my wrist as a signal, and together we stole across to the open trap-door. 426 Gently as we moved, however, the old floor must have creaked under our feet, for the head of our American, peering anxiously round, emerged suddenly from the open space. 427 His face turned upon us with a glare of baffled rage, which gradually softened into a rather shamefaced grin as he realized that two pistols were pointed at his head.
428 'Well, well!' said he, coolly, as he scrambled to the surface. 429 'I guess you have been one too many for me, Mr Holmes. 430 Saw through my game, I suppose, and played me for a sucker from the first. 431 Well, sir, I hand it to you, you have me beat and-'
432 In an instant he had whisked out a revolver from his breast and had fired two shots. 433 I felt a sudden hot sear as if a red-hot iron had been pressed to my thigh. 434 There was a crash as Holmes's pistol came down on the man's head. 435 I had a vision of him sprawling upon the floor with blood running down his face while Holmes rummaged him for weapons. 436 Then my friend's wiry arms were round me and he was leading me to a chair.
437 'You're not hurt, Watson? 438 For God's sake, say that you are not hurt!'
439 It was worth a wound - it was worth many wounds - to know the depth of loyalty and love which lay behind that cold mask. 440 The clear, hard eyes were dimmed for a moment, and the firm lips were shaking. 441 For the one and only time I caught a glimpse of a great heart as well as of a great brain. 442 All my years of humble but single-minded service culminated in that moment of revelation.
443 'It's nothing, Holmes. 444 It's a mere scratch.'
445 He had ripped up my trousers with his pocket-knife.
446 'You are right,' he cried, with an immense sigh of relief. 447 'It is quite superficial.' 448 His face set like flint as he glared at our prisoner, who was sitting up with a dazed face. 449 'By the Lord, it is as well for you. 450 If you had killed Watson, you would not have got out of this room alive. 451 Now, sir, what have you to say for yourself?'
452 He had nothing to say for himself. 453 He only lay and scowled. 454 I leaned on Holmes's arm, and together we looked down into the small cellar which had been disclosed by the secret flap. 455 It was still illuminated by the candle which Evans had taken down with him. 456 Our eyes fell upon a mass of rusted machinery, great rolls of paper, a litter of bottles, and, neatly arranged upon a small table, a number of neat little bundles.
457 'A printing press - a counterfeiter's outfit,' said Holmes.
458 'Yes, sir,' said our prisoner, staggering slowly to his feet and then sinking into the chair. 459 'The greatest counterfeiter London ever saw. 460 That's Prescott's machine, and those bundles on the table are two thousand of Prescott's notes worth a hundred each and fit to pass anywhere. 461 Help yourselves, gentlemen. 462 Call it a deal and let me beat it.'
463 Holmes laughed.
464 'We don't do things like that, Mr Evans. 465 There is no bolt-hole for you in this country. 466 You shot this man Prescott, did you not?'
467 'Yes, sir, and got five years for it, though it was he who pulled on me. 468 Five years - when I should have had a medal the size of a soup plate. 469 No living man could tell a Prescott from a Bank of England, and if I hadn't put him out he would have flooded London with them. 470 I was the only one in the world who knew where he made them. 471 Can you wonder that I wanted to get to the place? 472 And can you wonder that when I found this crazy boob of a bug-hunter with the queer name squatting right on the top of it, and never quitting his room, I had to do the best I could to shift him? 473 Maybe I would have been wiser if I had put him away. 474 It would have been easy enough, but I'm a soft-hearted guy that can't begin shooting unless the other man has a gun also. 475 But say, Mr Holmes, what have I done wrong, anyhow? 476 I've not used this plant. 477 I've not hurt this old stiff. 478 Where do you get me?'
479 'Only attempted murder, so far as I can see,' said Holmes. 480 'But that's not our job. 481 They take that at the next stage. 482 What we wanted at present was just your sweet self. 483 Please give the Yard a call, Watson. 484 It won't be entirely unexpected.'
485 So those were the facts about Killer Evans and his remarkable invention of the three Garridebs. 486 We heard later that our poor old friend never got over the shock of his dissipated dreams. 487 When his castle in the air fell down, it buried him beneath the ruins. 488 He was last heard of at a nursing-home in Brixton. 489 It was a glad day at the Yard when the Prescott outfit was discovered, for, though they knew that it existed, they had never been able, after the death of the man, to find out where it was. 490 Evans had indeed done great service, and caused several worthy CID men to sleep the sounder, for the counterfeiter stands in a class by himself as a public danger. 491 They would willingly have subscribed to that soup-plate medal of which the criminal had spoken, but an unappreciative Bench took a less favourable view, and the Killer returned to those shades from which he had just emerged.


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