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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 Black Peter


1 I have never known my friend to be in better form, both mental and physical, than in the year '95. 2 His increasing fame had brought with it an immense practice, and I should be guilty of an indiscretion if I were even to hint at the identity of some of the illustrious clients who crossed our humble threshold in Baker Street. 3 Holmes, however, like all great artists, lived for his art's sake, and, save in the case of the Duke of Holdernesse, I have seldom known him claim any large reward for his inestimable services. 4 So unworldly was he - or so capricious - that he frequently refused his help to the powerful and wealthy where the problem made no appeal to his sympathies, while he would devote weeks of most intense application to the affairs of some humble client whose case presented those strange and dramatic qualities which appealed to his imagination and challenged his ingenuity.
5 In this memorable year '95 a curious and incongruous succession of cases had engaged his attention, ranging from his famous investigation of the sudden death of Cardinal Tosca - an inquiry which was carried out by him at the express desire of his Holiness the Pope - down to his arrest of Wilson, the notorious canary-trainer, which removed a plague-spot from the East End of London. 6 Close on the heels of these two famous cases came the tragedy of Woodman's Lee, and the very obscure circumstances which surrounded the death of Captain Peter Carey. 7 No record of the doings of Mr Sherlock Holmes would be complete which did not include some account of this very unusual affair.
8 During the first week of July my friend had been absent so often and so long from our lodgings that I knew he had something on hand. 9 The fact that several rough-looking men called during that time and inquired for Captain Basil made me understand that Holmes was working somewhere under one of the numerous disguises and names with which he concealed his own formidable identity. 10 He had at least five small refuges in different parts of London in which he was able to change his personality. 11 He said nothing of his business to me, and it was not my habit to force a confidence. 12 The first positive sign which he gave me of the direction which his investigation was taking was an extraordinary one. 13 He had gone out before breakfast, and I had sat down to mine, when he strode into the room, his hat upon his head, and a huge barb-headed spear tucked like an umbrella under his arm.
14 'Good gracious, Holmes!' I cried. 15 'You don't mean to say that you have been walking about London with that thing?'
16 'I drove to the butcher's and back.'
17 'The butcher's?'
18 'And I return with an excellent appetite. 19 There can be no question, my dear Watson, of the value of exercise before breakfast. 20 But I am prepared to bet that you will not guess the form that my exercise has taken.'
21 'I will not attempt it.'
22 He chuckled as he poured out the coffee.
23 'If you could have looked into Allardyce's back shop you would have seen a dead pig swung from a hook in the ceiling, and a gentleman in his shirt-sleeves furiously stabbing at it with this weapon. 24 I was that energetic person, and I have satisfied myself that by no exertion of my strength can I transfix the pig with a single blow. 25 Perhaps you would care to try?'
26 'Not for worlds. 27 But why were you doing this?'
28 'Because it seemed to me to have an indirect bearing upon the mystery of Woodman's Lee. 29 Ah, Hopkins, I got your wire last night, and I have been expecting you. 30 Come and join us.'
31 Our visitor was an exceedingly alert man, thirty years of age, dressed in a quiet tweed suit, but retaining the erect bearing of one who was accustomed to official uniform. 32 I recognized him at once as Stanley Hopkins, a young police inspector for whose future Holmes had high hopes, while he in turn professed the admiration and respect of a pupil for the scientific methods of the famous amateur. 33 Hopkins's brow was clouded and he sat down with an air of deep dejection.
34 'No, thank you, sir. 35 I breakfasted before I came round. 36 I spend the night in town, for I came up yesterday to report.'
37 'And what had you to report?'
38 'Failure, sir - absolute failure.'
39 'You have made no progress?'
40 'None.'
41 'Dear me! 42 I must have a look at the matter.'
43 'I wish to heavens that you would, Mr Holmes. 44 It's my first big chance, and I am at my wits' end. 45 For goodness' sake come down and lend me a hand.'
46 'Well, well, it happens that I have already read all the available evidence, including the report of the inquest, with some care. 47 By the way, what do you make of that tobacco- pouch found on the scene of the crime? 48 Is there no clue there?'
49 Hopkins looked surprised.
50 'It was the man's own pouch, sir. 51 His initials were inside it. 52 And it was of sealskin - and he was an old sealer.'
53 'But he had no pipe.'
54 'No, sir, we could find no pipe; indeed, he smoked very little. 55 And yet he might have kept some tobacco for his friends.'
56 'No doubt. 57 I only mention it because if I had been handling the case I should have been inclined to make that the starting-point of my investigation. 58 However, my friend Dr Watson knows nothing of this matter, and I should be none the worse for hearing the sequence of events once more. 59 Just give us some short sketch of the essentials.'
60 Stanley Hopkins drew a slip of paper from his pocket.
61 'I have a few dates here which will give you the career of the dead man, Captain Peter Carey. 62 He was born in '45 - fifty years of age. 63 He was a most daring and successful seal and whale fisher. 64 In 1883 he commanded the steam sealer Sea Unicorn, of Dundee. 65 He had then had several successful voyages in succession, and in the following year, 1884, he retired. 66 After that he travelled for some years, and finally he bought a small place called Woodman's Lee, near Forest Row, in Sussex. 67 There he has lived for six years, and there he died just a week ago to-day.
68 'There were some most singular points about the man. 69 In ordinary life he was a strict Puritan - a silent, gloomy fellow. 70 His household consisted of his wife, his daughter, aged twenty, and two female servants. 71 These last were continually changing, for it was never a very cheery situation, and sometimes it became past all bearing. 72 The man was an intermittent drunkard, and when he had the fit on him he was a perfect fiend. 73 He has been known to drive his wife and his daughter out of doors in the middle of the night, and flog them through the park until the whole village outside the gates was aroused by their screams.
74 'He was summoned once for a savage assault upon the old vicar, who had called upon him to remonstrate with him upon his conduct. 75 In short, Mr Holmes, you would go far before you found a more dangerous man than Peter Carey, and I have heard that he bore the same character when he commanded his ship. 76 He was known in the trade as Black Peter, and the name was given him, not only on account of his swarthy features and the colour of his huge beard, but for the humours which were the terror of all around him. 77 I need not say that he was loathed and avoided by every one of his neighbours, and that I have not heard one single word of sorrow about his terrible end.
78 'You must have read in the account of the inquest about the man's cabin, Mr Holmes; but perhaps your friend here has not heard of it. 79 He had built himself a wooden outhouse - he always called it "the cabin" - a few hundred yards from his house, and it was here that he slept every night. 80 It was a little, single-roomed hut, sixteen feet by ten. 81 He kept the key in his pocket, made his own bed, cleaned it himself, and allowed no other foot to cross the threshold. 82 There are small windows on each side, which were covered by curtains, and never opened. 83 One of these windows was turned towards the high road, and when the light burned in it at night the folk used to point it out to each other, and wonder what Black Peter was doing in there. 84 That's the window, Mr Holmes, which gave us one of the few bits of positive evidence that came out at the inquest.
85 'You remember that a stonemason, named Slater, walking from Forest Row about one o'clock in the morning - two days before the murder - stopped as he passed the grounds and looked at the square of light still shining among the trees. 86 He swears that the shadow of a man's head turned sideways was clearly visible on the blind, and that this shadow was certainly not that of Peter Carey, whom he knew well. 87 It was that of a bearded man, but the beard was short, and bristled forwards in a way very different from that of the captain. 88 So he says, but he had been two hours in the public-house, and it is some distance from the road to the window. 89 Besides, this refers to the Monday, and the crime was done upon the Wednesday.
90 'On the Tuesday Peter Carey was in one of his blackest moods, flushed with drink and as savage as a dangerous wild beast. 91 He roamed about the house, and the women ran for it when they heard him coming. 92 Late in the evening he went down to his own hut. 93 About two o'clock the following morning his daughter, who slept with her window open, heard a most fearful yell from that direction, but it was no unusual thing for him to bawl and shout when he was in drink, so no notice was taken. 94 On rising at seven one of the maids noticed that the door of the hut was open, but so great was the terror which the man caused that it was midday before anyone would venture down to see what had become of him. 95 Peeping into the open door, they saw a sight which sent them flying with white faces into the village. 96 Within an hour I was on the spot, and had taken over the case.
97 'Well, I have fairly steady nerves, as you know, Mr Holmes, but I give you my word that I got a shake when I put my head into that little house. 98 It was droning like a harmonium with the flies and bluebottles, and the floor and walls were like a slaughter-house. 99 He had called it a cabin, and a cabin it was, sure enough, for you would have thought that you were in a ship. 100 There was a bunk at one end, a sea-chest, maps and charts, a picture of the Sea Unicorn, a line of log-books on a shelf, all exactly as one would expect to find it in a captain's room. 101 And there in the middle of it was the man himself, his face twisted like a lost soul in hell, and his great brindled beard stuck upwards in his agony. 102 Right through his broad breast a steel harpoon had been driven, and it had sunk deep into the wood of the wall behind him. 103 He was pinned like a beetle on a card. 104 Of course, he was quite dead, and had been so from the instant that he uttered that last yell of agony.
105 'I know your methods, sir, and I applied them. 106 Before I permitted anything to be moved I examined most carefully the ground outside, and also the floor of the room. 107 There were no footmarks.'
108 'Meaning that you saw none?'
109 'I assure you, sir, that there were none.'
110 'My good Hopkins, I have investigated many crimes, but I have never yet seen one which was committed by a flying creature. 111 As long as the criminal remains upon two legs so long must there be some indentation, some abrasion, some trifling displacement which can be detected by the scientific searcher. 112 It is incredible that this blood-bespattered room contained no trace which could have aided us. 113 I understand, however, from the inquest that there were some objects which you failed to overlook?'
114 The young inspector winced at my companion's ironical comments.
115 'I was a fool not to call you in at the time, Mr Holmes. 116 However, that's past praying for now. 117 Yes, there were several objects in the room which called for special attention. 118 One was the harpoon with which the deed was committed. 119 It had been snatched down from a rack on the wall. 120 Two others remained there, and there was a vacant place for the third. 121 On the stock was engraved "S.S. Sea Unicorn, Dundee". 122 This seemed to establish that the crime had been done in a moment of fury, and that the murderer had seized the first weapon which came in his way. 123 The fact that the crime was committed at two in the morning, and yet Peter Carey was fully dressed, suggested that he had an appointment with the murderer, which is borne out by the fact that a bottle of rum and two dirty glasses stood upon the table.'
124 'Yes,' said Holmes; 'I think that both inferences are permissible. 125 Was there any other spirit but rum in the room?'
126 'Yes; there was a tantalus containing brandy and whisky on the sea-chest. 127 It is of no importance to us, however, since the decanters were full and it had therefore not been used.'
128 'For all that its presence has some significance,' said Holmes. 129 'However, let us hear some more about the objects which do seem to you to bear upon the case.'
130 'There was this tobacco-pouch upon the table.'
131 'What part of the table?'
132 'It lay in the middle. 133 It was of coarse sealskin - the straight-haired skin, with a leather thong to bind it. 134 Inside was "PC" on the flap. 135 There was half an ounce of strong ship's tobacco in it.'
136 'Excellent! 137 What more?'
138 Stanley Hopkins drew from his pocket a drab-covered note-book. 139 The outside was rough and worn, the leaves were discoloured. 140 On the first page were written the initials 'JHN', and the date '1883'. 141 Holmes laid it on the table and examined it in his minute way, while Hopkins and I gazed over each shoulder. 142 On the second page were printed the letters 'CPR', and then came several sheets of numbers. 143 Another heading was Argentine, another Costa Rica, and another San Paulo, each with pages of signs and figures after it.
144 'What do you make of these?' asked Holmes.
145 'They appear to be lists of Stock Exchange securities. 146 I thought that "JHN" were the initials of a broker, and that "CPR" may have been his client.'
147 'Try Canadian Pacific Railway,' said Holmes.
148 Stanley Hopkins swore between his teeth, and struck his thigh with his clenched hand.
149 'What a fool I have been!' he cried. 150 'Of course it is as you say. 151 Then "JHN" are the only initials we have to solve. 152 I have already examined the old Stock Exchange lists, and I can find no one in 1883 either in the House or among the outside brokers whose initials correspond with these. 153 Yet I feel that the clue is the most important one that I hold. 154 You will admit, Mr Holmes, that there is a possibility that these initials are those of the second person who was present - in other words, of the murderer. 155 I would also urge that the introduction into the case of a document relating to large masses of valuable securities gives us for the first time some indication of a motive for the crime.'
156 Sherlock Holmes's face showed that he was thoroughly taken aback by this new development.
157 'I must admit both your points,' said he. 158 'I confess that this note-book, which did not appear at the inquest, modifies any views which I may have formed. 159 I had come to a theory of the crime in which I can find no place for this. 160 Have you endeavoured to trace any of the securities here mentioned?'
161 'Inquiries are now being made at the offices, but I fear that the complete register of the stock-holders of these South American concerns is in South America, and that some weeks must elapse before we can trace the shares.'
162 Holmes had been examining the cover of the note-book with his magnifying lens.
163 'Surely there is some discoloration here,' said he.
164 'Yes, sir, it is a blood-stain. 165 I told you that I picked the book off the floor.'
166 'Was the blood-stain above or below?'
167 'On the side next to the boards.'
168 'Which proves, of course, that the book was dropped after the crime was committed.'
169 'Exactly, Mr Holmes. 170 I appreciated that point, and I conjectured that it was dropped by the murderer on his hurried flight. 171 It lay near the door.'
172 'I suppose that none of these securities have been found among the property of the dead man?'
173 'No, sir.'
174 'Have you any reason to suspect robbery?'
175 'No, sir. 176 Nothing seemed to have been touched.'
177 'Dear me, it is certainly a very interesting case. 178 Then there was a knife, was there not?'
179 'A sheath-knife, still in its sheath. 180 It lay at the feet of the dead man. 181 Mrs Carey has identified it as being her husband's property.'
182 Holmes was lost in thought for some time.
183 'Well,' said he, at last, 'I suppose I shall have to come out and have a look at it.'
184 Stanley Hopkins gave a cry of joy.
185 'Thank you, sir. 186 That will indeed be a weight off my mind.'
187 Holmes shook his finger at the inspector.
188 'It would have been an easier task a week ago,' said he. 189 'But even now my visit may not be entirely fruitless. 190 Watson, if you can spare the time, I should be very glad of your company. 191 If you will call a four-wheeler, Hopkins, we shall be ready to start for Forest Row in a quarter of an hour.'

192 Alighting at the small wayside station, we drove for some miles through the remains of widespread woods, which were once part of that great forest which for so long held the Saxon invaders at bay - the impenetrable 'weald', for sixty years the bulwark of Britain. 193 Vast sections of it have been cleared, for this is the seat of the first ironworks of the country, and the trees have been felled to smelt the ore. 194 Now the richer fields of the North have absorbed the trade, and nothing save these ravaged groves and great scars in the earth show the work of the past. 195 Here in a clearing upon the green slope of a hill stood a long, low stone house, approached by a curving drive running through the fields. 196 Nearer the road, and surrounded on three sides by bushes, was a small outhouse, one window and the door facing in our direction. 197 It was the scene of the murder.
198 Stanley Hopkins led us first to the house, where he introduced us to a haggard, grey-haired woman, the widow of the murdered man, whose gaunt and deep-lined face, with the furtive look of terror in the depths of her red- rimmed eyes, told of the years of hardship and ill-usage which she had endured. 199 With her was her daughter, a pale, fair-haired girl, whose eyes blazed defiantly at us as she told us that she was glad that her father was dead, and that she blessed the hand which had struck him down. 200 It was a terrible household that Black Peter Carey had made for himself, and it was with a sense of relief that we found ourselves in the sunlight again and making our way along the path which had been worn across the fields by the feet of the dead man.
201 The outhouse was the simplest of dwellings, wooden- walled, single-roofed, one window beside the door, and one on the farther side. 202 Stanley Hopkins drew the key from his pocket, and had stooped to the lock, when he paused with a look of attention and surprise upon his face.
203 'Someone has been tampering with it,' he said.
204 There could be no doubt of the fact. 205 The woodwork was cut, and the scratches showed white through the paint, as if they had been that instant done. 206 Holmes had been examining the window.
207 'Someone has tried to force this also. 208 Whoever it was has failed to make his way in. 209 He must have been a very poor burglar.'
210 'This is a most extraordinary thing,' said the inspector; 'I could swear that these marks were not here yesterday evening.'
211 'Some curious person from the village, perhaps,' I suggested.
212 'Very unlikely. 213 Few of them would dare to set foot in the grounds, far less try to force their way into the cabin. 214 What do you think of it, Mr Holmes?'
215 'I think that fortune is very kind to us.'
216 'You mean that the person will come again?'
217 'It is very probable. 218 He came expecting to find the door open. 219 He tried to get in with the blade of a very small penknife. 220 He could not manage it. 221 What would he do?'
222 'Come again next night with a more useful tool.'
223 'So I should say. 224 It will be our fault if we are not there to receive him. 225 Meanwhile, let me see the inside of the cabin.'
226 The traces of the tragedy had been removed, but the furniture of the little room still stood as it had been on the night of the crime. 227 For two hours, with the most intense concentration, Holmes examined every object in turn, but his face showed that his quest was not a successful one. 228 Once only he paused in his patient investigation.
229 'Have you taken anything off this shelf, Hopkins?'
230 'No; I have moved nothing.'
231 'Something has been taken. 232 There is less dust in this comer of the shelf than elsewhere. 233 It may have been a book lying on its side. 234 It may have been a box. 235 Well, well, I can do nothing more. 236 Let us walk in these beautiful woods, Watson, and give a few hours to the birds and the flowers. 237 We shall meet you here later, Hopkins, and see if we can come to closer quarters with the gentleman who has paid this visit in the night.'
238 It was past eleven o'clock when we formed our little ambuscade. 239 Hopkins was for leaving the door of the hut open, but Holmes was of the opinion that this would rouse the suspicions of the stranger. 240 The lock was a perfectly simple one, and only a strong blade was needed to push it back. 241 Holmes also suggested that we should wait, not inside the hut, but outside it among the bushes which grew round the farther window. 242 In this way we should be able to watch our man if he struck a light, and see what his object was in this stealthy nocturnal visit.
243 It was a long and melancholy vigil, and yet it brought with it something of the thrill which the hunter feels when he lies beside the water-pool and waits for the coming of the thirsty beast of prey. 244 What savage creature was it which might steal upon us out of the darkness? 245 Was it a fierce tiger of crime, which could only be taken fighting hard with flashing fang and claw, or would it prove to be some skulking jackal, dangerous only to the weak and unguarded? 246 In absolute silence we crouched amongst the bushes, waiting for whatever might come. 247 At first the steps of a few belated villagers, or the sound of voices from the village, lightened our vigil; but one by one these interruptions died away, and an absolute stillness fell upon us; save for the chimes of the distant church, which told us of the progress of the night, and for the rustle and whisper of a fine rain falling amid the foliage which roofed us in.
248 Half-past two had chimed, and it was the darkest hour which precedes the dawn, when we all started as a low but sharp click came from the direction of the gate. 249 Someone had entered the drive. 250 Again there was a long silence, and I had begun to fear that it was a false alarm, when a stealthy step was heard upon the other side of the hut, and a moment later a metallic scraping and clicking. 251 The man was trying to force the lock! 252 This time his skill was greater or his tool was better, for there was a sudden snap and the creak of the hinges. 253 Then a match was struck, and next instant the steady light from a candle filled the interior of the hut. 254 Through the gauze curtain our eyes were all riveted upon the scene within.
255 The nocturnal visitor was a young man, frail and thin, with a black moustache which intensified the deadly pallor of his face. 256 He could not have been much above twenty years of age. 257 I have never seen any human being who appeared to be in such a pitiable fright, for his teeth were visibly chattering, and he was shaking in every limb. 258 He was dressed like a gentleman, in Norfolk jacket and knickerbockers, with a cloth cap upon his head. 259 We watched him staring round with frightened eyes. 260 Then he laid the candle-end upon the table and disappeared from our view into one of the corners. 261 He returned with a large book, one of the log-books which formed a lime upon the shelves. 262 Leaning on the table, he rapidly turned over the leaves of this volume until he came to the entry which he sought. 263 Then, with an angry gesture of his clenched hand, he closed the book, replaced it in the comer, and put out the light. 264 He had hardly turned to leave the hut when Hopkins's hand was on the fellow's collar, and I heard his loud gasp of terror as he understood that he was taken. 265 The candle was re-lit, and there was our wretched captive shivering and cowering in the grasp of the detective. 266 He sank down upon the sea-chest, and looked helplessly from one of us to the other.
267 'Now, my fine fellow,' said Stanley Hopkins, 'who are you, and what do you want here?'
268 The man pulled himself together and faced us with an effort at self-composure.
269 'You are detectives, I suppose?' said he. 270 'You imagine I am connected with the death of Captain Peter Carey. 271 I assure you that I am innocent.'
272 'We'll see about that,' said Hopkins. 273 'First of ah, what is your name?'
274 'It is John Hopley Neligan.'
275 I saw Holmes and Hopkins exchange a quick glance. 276 'What are you doing here?'
277 'Can I speak confidentially?'
278 'No, certainly not.'
279 'Why should I tell you?'
280 'If you have no answer it may go badly with you at the trial.'
281 The young man winced.
282 'Well, I will tell you,' he said. 283 'Why should I not? 284 And yet I hate to think of this old scandal gaining a new lease of life. 285 Did you ever hear of Dawson & Neligan?'
286 I could see from Hopkins's face that he never had; but Holmes was keenly interested.
287 'You mean the West Country bankers,' said he. 288 They failed for a million, ruined half the county families of Cornwall, and Neligan disappeared.'
289 'Exactly. 290 Neligan was my father.'
291 At last we were getting something positive, and yet it seemed a long gap between an absconding banker and Captain Peter Carey pinned against the wall with one of his own harpoons. 292 We all listened intently to the young man's words.
293 'It was my father who was really concerned. 294 Dawson had retired. 295 I was only ten years of age at the time, but I was old enough to feel the shame and horror of it all. 296 It has always been said that my father stole all the securities and fled. 297 It is not true. 298 It was his belief that if he were given time in which to realize them all would be well, and every creditor paid in full. 299 He started in his little yacht for Norway just before the warrant was issued for his arrest. 300 I can remember that last night when he bade farewell to my mother. 301 He left us a list of the securities he was taking, and he swore that he would come back with his honour cleared, and that none who had trusted him would suffer. 302 Well, no word was ever heard from him again. 303 Both the yacht and he vanished utterly. 304 We believed, my mother and I, that he and it, with the securities that he had taken with him, were at the bottom of the sea. 305 We had a faithful friend, however, who is a business man, and it was he who discovered some time ago that some of the securities which my father had with him have reappeared on the London market. 306 You can imagine our amazement. 307 I spent months in trying to trace them, and at last, after many doublings and difficulties, I discovered that the original seller had been Captain Peter Carey, the owner of this hut.
308 'Naturally I made some inquiries about the man. 309 I found that he had been in command of a whaler which was due to return from the Arctic seas at the very time when my father was crossing to Norway. 310 The autumn of that year was a stormy one and there was a long succession of southerly gales. 311 My father's yacht may well have been blown to the north, and there met by Captain Peter Carey's ship. 312 If that were so, what had become of my father? 313 In any case, if I could prove from Peter Carey's evidence how these securities came in the market, it would be a proof that my father had not sold them, and that he had no view to personal profit when he took them.314 'I came down to Sussex with the intention of seeing the captain, but it was at this moment that his terrible death occurred. 315 I read at the inquest a description of his cabin, in which it stated that the old log-books of his vessel were preserved in it. 316 It struck me that if I could see what occurred in the month of August, 1883, on board the Sea Unicorn, I might settle the mystery of my father's fate. 317 I tried last night to get at these log-books, but was unable to open the door. 318 To-night I tried again, and succeeded; but I find that the pages which deal with that month have been torn from the book. 319 It was at that moment I found myself a prisoner in your hands.'
320 'Is that all?' asked Hopkins.321 'Yes, that is ah.' 322 His eyes shifted as he said it.
323 'You have nothing else to tell us?'
324 He hesitated.
325 'No; there is nothing.'
326 'You have not been here before last night?'
327 'No.'
328 'Then how do you account for that ?' cried Hopkins, as he held up the damning notebook, with the initials of our prisoner on the first leaf, and the blood-stain on the cover.
329 The wretched man collapsed. 330 He sank his face in his hands and trembled all over.
331 'Where did you get it?' he groaned. 332 'I did not know. 333 I thought I had lost it at the hotel.'
334 'That is enough,' said Hopkins sternly. 335 'Whatever else you have to say you must say in court. 336 You will walk down with me now to the police-station. 337 Well, Mr Holmes, I am very much obliged to you and to your friend for coming down to help me. 338 As it turns out your presence was unnecessary, and I would have brought the case to this successful issue without you; but none the less I am very grateful. 339 Rooms have been reserved for you at the Brambletye Hotel, so we can all walk down to the village together.'
340 'Well, Watson, what do you think of it?' asked Holmes as we travelled back next morning.
341 'I can see that you are not satisfied.'
342 'Oh, yes, my dear Watson, I am perfectly satisfied. 343 At the same time Stanley Hopkins's methods do not commend themselves to me. 344 I am disappointed in Stanley Hopkins. 345 I had hoped for better things from him. 346 One should always look for a possible alternative and provide against it. 347 It is the first rule of criminal investigation.'
348 'What, then, is the alternative?'
349 'The fine of investigation which I have myself been pursuing. 350 It may give nothing. 351 I cannot tell. 352 But at least I shall follow it to the end.'
353 Several letters were waiting for Holmes at Baker Street. 354 He snatched one of them up, opened it, and burst out into a triumphant chuckle of laughter.
355 'Excellent, Watson. 356 The alternative develops. 357 Have you telegraph forms? 358 Just write a couple of messages for me: 359 "Sumner, Shipping Agent, Ratcliff Highway. 360 Send three men on, to arrive ten to-morrow morning. — 361 Basil." 362 That's my name in those parts. 363 The other is "Inspector Stanley Hopkins, 46, Lord Street, Brixton. 364 Come breakfast to-morrow at nine-thirty. 365 Important. 366 Wire if unable to come. — 367 Sherlock Holmes." 368 There, Watson, this infernal case has haunted me for ten days. 369 I hereby banish it completely from my presence. 370 To-morrow I trust that we shall hear the last of it for ever.'
371 Sharp at the hour named Inspector Stanley Hopkins appeared, and we sat down together to the excellent breakfast which Mrs Hudson had prepared. 372 The young detective was in high spirits at his success.
373 'You really think that your solution must be correct?' asked Holmes.
374 'I could not imagine a more complete case.'
375 'It did not seem to me conclusive.'
376 'You astonish me, Mr Holmes. 377 What more could one ask for?'
378 'Does your explanation cover every point?'
379 'Undoubtedly. 380 I find that young Neligan arrived at the Brambletye Hotel on the very day of the crime. 381 He came on the pretence of playing golf. 382 His room was on the ground-floor, and he could get out when he liked. 383 That very night he went down to Woodman's Lee, saw Peter Carey at the hut, quarrelled with him, and killed him with the harpoon.
384 Then, horrified by what he had done, he fled out of the hut, dropping the note-book which he had brought with him in order to question Peter Carey about these different securities. 385 You may have observed that some of them were marked with ticks, and the others - the great majority - were not. 386 Those which are ticked have been traced on the London market; but the others presumably were still in the possession of Carey, and young Neligan, according to his own account, was anxious to recover them in order to do the right thing by his father's creditors. 387 After his flight he did not dare to approach the hut again for some time; but at last he forced himself to do so in order to obtain the information which he needed. 388 Surely that is all simple and obvious?'
389 Holmes smiled and shook his head.
390 'It seems to me to have only one drawback, Hopkins, and that is that it is intrinsically impossible. 391 Have you tried to drive a harpoon through a body? 392 No? 393 Tut, tut, my dear sir, you must really pay attention to these details. 394 My friend Watson could tell you that I spent a whole morning in that exercise. 395 It is no easy matter, and requires a strong and practised arm. 396 But this blow was delivered with such violence that the head of the weapon sank deep into the wall. 397 Do you imagine that this anaemic youth was capable of so frightful an assault? 398 Is he the man who hob-nobbed in rum and water with Black Peter in the dead of the night? 399 Was it his profile that was seen on the blind two nights before? 400 No, no, Hopkins; it is another and a more formidable person for whom we must seek.'
401 The detective's face had grown longer and longer during Holmes's speech. 402 His hopes and his ambitions were all crumbling about him. 403 But he would not abandon his position without a struggle.
404 'You can't deny that Neligan was present that night, Mr Holmes. 405 The book will prove that. 406 I fancy that I have evidence enough to satisfy a jury, even if you are able to pick a hole in it. 407 Besides, Mr Holmes, I have laid my hand upon my man. 408 As to this terrible person of yours, where is he?'
409 'I rather fancy that he is on the stair,' said Holmes, serenely. 410 'I think, Watson, that you would do well to put that revolver where you can reach it.' 411 He rose, and laid a written paper upon a side-table. 412 'Now we are ready,' said he.
413 There had been some talking in gruff voices outside, and now Mrs Hudson opened the door to say that there were three men inquiring for Captain Basil.
414 'Show them in one by one,' said Holmes.
415 The first who entered was a little ribston-pippin of a man, with ruddy cheeks and fluffy white side-whiskers. 416 Holmes had drawn a letter from his pocket.
417 'What name?' he asked.
418 'James Lancaster.'
419 'I am sorry, Lancaster, but the berth is full. 420 Here is half a sovereign for your trouble. 421 Just step into this room and wait there for a few minutes.'
422 The second man was a long, dried-up creature, with lank hair and sallow cheeks. 423 His name was Hugh Pattins. 424 He also received his dismissal, his half-sovereign, and the order to wait.
425 The third applicant was a man of remarkable appearance. 426 A fierce, bull-dog face was framed in a tangle of hair and beard, and two bold dark eyes gleamed behind the cover of thick, tufted, overhung eyebrows. 427 He saluted and stood sailor-fashion, turning his cap round in his hands.
428 'Your name?' asked Holmes.
429 'Patrick Cairns.'
430 'Harpooner?'
431 'Yes, sir. 432 Twenty-six voyages.'
433 'Dundee, I suppose?'
434 'Yes, sir.'
435 'And ready to start with an exploring ship?'
436 'Yes, sir.'
437 'What wages?'
438 'Eight pounds a month!
439 'Could you start at once?'
440 'As soon as I get my kit.'
441 'Have you your papers?'
442 'Yes, sir.' 443 He took a sheaf of worn and greasy forms from his pocket. 444 Holmes glanced over them and returned them.
445 'You are just the man I want,' said he. 446 'Here's the agreement on the side-table. 447 If you sign it the whole matter will be settled.'
448 The seaman lurched across the room and took up the pen. 449 'Shall I sign here?' he asked, stooping over the table. 450 Holmes leaned over his shoulder and passed both hands over his neck.
451 'This will do,' said he.
452 I heard a click of steel and a bellow like an enraged bull. 453 The next instant Holmes and the seaman were rolling on the ground together. 454 He was a man of such gigantic strength that, even with the handcuffs which Holmes had so deftly fastened upon his wrist, he would have quickly overpowered my friend had Hopkins and I not rushed to his rescue. 455 Only when I pressed the cold muzzle of the revolver to his temple did he at last understand that resistance was vain. 456 We lashed his ankles with cord and rose breathless from the struggle.
457 'I must really apologize, Hopkins,' said Sherlock Holmes; 'I fear that the scrambled eggs are cold. 458 However, you will enjoy the rest of your breakfast all the better, will you not, for the thought that you have brought your case to a triumphant conclusion?'
459 Stanley Hopkins was speechless with amazement.
460 'I don't know what to say, Mr Holmes,' he blurted out at last, with a very red face. 461 'It seems to me that I have been making a fool of myself from the beginning. 462 I understand now, what should never have forgotten, that I am the pupil and you are the master. 463 Even now I see what you have done, but I don't know how you did it, or what it signifies.'
464 'Well, well,' said Holmes good-humouredly. 465 'We all learn by experience, and your lesson this time is that you should never lose sight of the alternative. 466 You were so absorbed in young Neligan that you could not spare a thought to Patrick Cairns, the true murderer of Peter Carey.'
467 The hoarse voice of the seaman broke in on our conversation.
468 'See here, mister,' said he, 'I make no complaint of being man-handled in this fashion, but I would have you call things by their right names. 469 You say I murdered Peter Carey; I say I killed Peter Carey, and there's all the difference. 470 Maybe you don't believe what I say. 471 Maybe you think I am just slinging you a yarn.'
472 'Not at all,' said Holmes. 473 'Let us hear what you have to say.'
474 'It's soon told, and, by the Lord, every word of it is truth. 475 I knew Black Peter, and when he pulled out his knife I whipped a harpoon through him sharp, for I knew that it was him or me. 476 That's how he died. 477 You can call it murder. 478 Anyhow, I'd as soon die with a rope round my neck as with Black Peter's knife in my heart.'
479 'How came you there?' asked Holmes.
480 'I'll tell it you from the beginning. 481 Just sit me up a little so I can speak easy. 482 It was in '83 that it happened - August of that year. 483 Peter Carey was master of the Sea Unicorn, and I was spare harpooner. 484 We were coming out of the ice-pack on our way home, with head winds and a week's southerly gale, when we picked up a little craft that had been blown north. 485 There was one man on her - a landsman. 486 The crew had thought she would founder, and had made for the Norwegian coast in the dinghy. 487 I guess they were all drowned. 488 Well, we took him on board, this man, and he and the skipper had some long talks in the cabin. 489 All the baggage we took off with him was one tin box. 490 So far as I know the man's name was never mentioned, and on the second night he disappeared as if he had never been. 491 It was given out that he had either thrown himself overboard or fallen overboard in the heavy weather that we were having. 492 Only one man knew what had happened to him, and that was me, for with my own eyes I saw the skipper tip up his heels and put him over the rail in the middle watch of a dark night, two days before we sighted the Shetland lights.
493 'Well, I kept my knowledge to myself and waited to see what would come of it. 494 When we got back to Scotland it was easily hushed up, and nobody asked any questions. 495 A stranger died by an accident, and it was nobody's business to inquire. 496 Shortly after Peter Carey gave up the sea, and it was long years before I could find where he was. 497 I guessed that he had done the deed for the sake of what was in that tin box, and that he could afford now to pay me well for keeping my mouth shut.
498 'I found out where he was through a sailor man that had met him in London, and down I went to squeeze him. 499 The first night he was reasonable enough, and was ready to give me what would make me free of the sea for life. 500 We were to fix it all two nights later. 501 When I came I found him three-parts drunk and full of the devil. 502 We sat down and we drank and we yarned about old times, but the more he drank the less I liked the look on his face. 503 I spotted that harpoon upon the wall, and I thought I might need it before I was through. 504 Then at last he broke out at me spitting and cursing, with murder in his eyes and a great clasp-knife in his hand. 505 He had not time to get it from the sheath before I had the harpoon through him. 506 My God! what a yell he gave; and his face gets between me and my sleep! 507 I stood there, with his blood splashing round me, and I waited for a bit; but all was quiet, so I took heart once more. 508 I looked round, and there was the tin box on a shelf. 509 I had as much right to it as Peter Carey, anyhow, so I took it with me and left the hut. 510 Like a fool I left my baccy-pouch upon the table.
511 'Now tell you the queerest pan of the whole story. 512 I had hardly got outside the hut when I heard someone coming, and I hid among the bushes. 513 A man came slinking along, went into the hut, gave a cry as if he had seen a ghost, and legged it as hard as he could run until he was out of sight. 514 Who he was or what he wanted is more than I can tell. 515 For my pan, I walked ten miles, got a train at Tunbridge Wells, and so reached London, and no one the wiser.
516 'Well, when I came to examine the box I found there was no money in it, and nothing but papers that I would not dare to sell. 517 I had lost my hold on Black Peter, and was stranded in London without a shilling. 518 There was only my trade left. 519 I saw these advertisements about harpooners and high wages, so I went to the shipping agents, and they sent me here. 520 That's all I know, and I say again that if I killed Black Peter, the law should give me thanks, for I saved them the price of a hempen rope.'
521 'A very clear statement,' said Holmes, rising and fighting his pipe. 522 'I think, Hopkins, that you should lose no time in conveying your prisoner to a place of safety. 523 This room is not well adapted for a cell, and Mr Patrick Cairns occupies too large a portion of our carpet.'
524 'Mr Holmes,' said Hopkins, 'I do not know how to express my gratitude. 525 Even now I do not understand how you attained this result.'
526 Simply by having the good fortune to get the right clue from the beginning. 527 It is very possible that if I had known about this note-book it might have led away my thoughts, as it did yours. 528 But all I heard pointed in the one direction. 529 The amazing strength, the skill in the use of the harpoon, the rum and water, the seal-skin tobacco-pouch, with the coarse tobacco - all these pointed to a seaman, and one who had been a whaler. 530 I was convinced that the initials "PC" upon the pouch were a coincidence, and not those of Peter Carey, since he seldom smoked, and no pipe was found in his cabin. 531 You remember that I asked whether whisky and brandy were in the cabin. 532 You said they were. 533 How many landsmen are there who would drink rum when they could get these other spirits? 534 Yes, I was certain it was a seaman.'
535 'And how did you find him?'
536 'My dear sir, the problem had become a very simple one. 537 If it were a seaman, it could only be a seaman who had been with him on the Sea Unicorn. 538 So far as I could learn, he had sailed in no other ship. 539 I spent three days in wiring to Dundee, and at the end of that time I had ascertained the names of the crew of the Sea Unicorn in 1883. 540 When I found Patrick Cairns among the harpooners my research was nearing its end. 541 I argued that the man was probably in London, and that he would desire to leave the country for a time. 542 I therefore spent some days in the East End, devised an Arctic expedition, put forward tempting terms for harpooners who would serve under Captain Basil - and behold the result!'
543 'Wonderful!' cried Hopkins. 544 'Wonderful!'
545 'You must obtain the release of young Neligan as soon as possible.' said Holmes. 546 'I confess that I think you owe him some apology. 547 The tin box must be returned to him, but of course, the securities which Peter Carey has sold are lost for ever. 548 There's the cab, Hopkins, and you can remove your man. 549 If you want me for the trial, my address and that of Watson will be somewhere in Norway - I'll send particulars later.'

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