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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 Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes
The Mazarin Stone

 

1 It was pleasant to Dr Watson to find himself once more in the untidy room of the first floor in Baker Street which had been the starting-point of so many remarkable adventures. 2 He looked round him at the scientific charts upon the wall, the acid-charred bench of chemicals, the violin-case leaning in the corner, the coal-scuttle, which contained of old the pipes and tobacco. 3 Finally, his eyes came round to the fresh and smiling face of Billy the young but very wise and tactful page, who had helped a little to fill up the gap of loneliness and isolation which surrounded the saturnine figure of the great detective.
4 'It all seems very unchanged, Billy. 5 You don't change, either. 6 I hope the same can be said of him?'
7 Billy glanced, with some solicitude, at the closed door of the bedroom.
8 'I think he's in bed and asleep,' he said.
9 It was seven in the evening of a lovely summer's day, but Dr Watson was sufficiently familiar with the irregularity of his old friend's hours to feel no surprise at the idea.
10 'That means a case, I suppose?'
11 'Yes, sir, he is very hard at it just now. 12 I'm frightened for his health. 13 He gets paler and thinner, and he eats nothing. 14 "When will you be pleased to dine, Mr Holmes?" Mrs Hudson asked. 15 "Seven-thirty, the day after tomorrow," said he. 16 You know his way when he is keen on a case.'
17 'Yes, Billy, I know.'
18 'He's following someone. 19 Yesterday he was out as a workman looking for a job. 20 To-day he was an old woman. 21 Fairly took me in, he did, and I ought to know his ways by now.' 22 Billy pointed with a grin to a very baggy parasol which leaned against the sofa. 23 'That's part of the old woman's outfit,' he said.
24 'But what is it all about, Billy?'
25 Billy sank his voice, as one who discusses great secrets of State. 26 'I don't mind telling you, sir, but it should go no farther. 27 It's this case of the Crown diamond.'
28 'What - the hundred-thousand-pound burglary?'
29 'Yes, sir. 30 They must get it back, sir. 31 Why, we had the Prime Minister and the Home Secretary both sitting on that very sofa. 32 Mr Holmes was very nice to them. 33 He soon put them at their ease and promised he would do all he could. 34 Then there is Lord Cantlemere-'
35 'Ah!'
36 'Yes, sir, you know what that means. 37 He's a stiff 'un, sir, if I may say so. 38 I can get along with the Prime Minister, and I've nothing against the Home Secretary, who seemed a civil, obliging sort of man, but I can't stand his lordship. 39 Neither can Mr Holmes, sir. 40 You see, he don't believe in Mr Holmes and he was against employing him. 41 He'd rather he failed.'
42 'And Mr Holmes knows it?'
43 'Mr Holmes always knows whatever there is to know.'
44 'Well, we'll hope he won't fail and that Lord Cantlemere will be confounded. 45 But I say, Billy, what is that curtain for across the window?'
46 'Mr Holmes had it put up there three days ago. 47 We've got something funny behind it.'
48 Billy advanced and drew away the drapery which screened the alcove of the bow window.
49 Dr Watson could not restrain a cry of amazement. 50 There was a facsimile of his old friend, dressing-gown and all, the face turned three-quarters towards the window and downwards, as though reading an invisible book, while the body was sunk deep in an arm-chair. 51 Billy detached the head and held it in the air.
52 'We put it at different angles, so that it may seem more life-like. 53 I wouldn't dare touch it if the blind were not down. 54 But when it's up you can see this from across the way.'
55 'We used something of the sort once before.'
56 'Before my time,' said Billy. 57 He drew the window curtains apart and looked out into the street. 58 'There are folk who watch us from over yonder. 59 I can see a fellow now at the window. 60 Have a look for yourself.'
61 Watson had taken a step forward when the bedroom door opened, and the long, thin form of Holmes emerged, his face pale and drawn, but his step and bearing as active as ever. 62 With a single spring he was at the window, and had drawn the blind once more.
63 'That will do, Billy,' said he. 64 'You were in danger of your life then, my boy, and I can't do without you just yet. 65 Well, Watson, it is good to see you in your old quarters once again. 66 You come at a critical moment.'
67 'So I gather.'
68 'You can go, Billy. 69 That boy is a problem, Watson. 70 How far am I justified in allowing him to be in danger?'
71 'Danger of what, Holmes?'
72 'Of sudden death. 73 I'm expecting something this evening.'
74 'Expecting what?'
75 'To be murdered, Watson.'
76 'No, no, you are joking, Holmes!'
77 'Even my limited sense of humour could evolve a better joke than that. 78 But we may be comfortable in the mean time, may we not? 79 Is alcohol permitted? 80 The gasogene and cigars are in the old place. 81 Let me see you once more in the customary arm-chair. 82 You have not, I hope, learned to despise my pipe and my lamentable tobacco? 83 It has to take the place of food these days.'
84 'But why not eat?'
85 'Because the faculties become refined when you starve them. 86 Why, surely, as a doctor, my dear Watson, you must admit that what your digestion gains in the way of blood supply is so much lost to the brain. 87 I am a brain, Watson. 88 The rest of me is a mere appendix. 89 Therefore, it is the brain I must consider.'
90 'But this danger, Holmes?'
91 'Ah, yes, in case it should come off, it would perhaps be as well that you should burden your memory with the name and address of the murderer. 92 You can give it to Scotland Yard, with my love and a parting blessing. 93 Sylvius is the name - Count Negretto Sylvius. 94 Write it down, man, write it down! 95 136, Moorside Gardens, NW. 96 Got it?'
97 Watson's honest face was twitching with anxiety. 98 He knew only too well the immense risks taken by Holmes, and was well aware that what he said was more likely to be understatement than exaggeration. 99 Watson was always the man of action, and he rose to the occasion.
100 'Count me in, Holmes. 101 I have nothing to do for a day or two.'
102 'Your morals don't improve, Watson. 103 You have added fibbing to your other vices. 104 You bear every sign of the busy medical man, with calls on him every hour.'
105 'Not such important ones. 106 But can't you have this fellow arrested?'
107 'Yes, Watson, I could. 108 That's what worries him so.'
109 'But why don't you?'
110 'Because I don't know where the diamond is.'
111 'Ah! 112 Billy told me - the missing Crown Jewel!'
113 'Yes, the great yellow Mazarin stone. 114 I've cast my net and I have my fish. 115 But I have not got the stone. 116 What is the use of taking them? 117 We can make the world a better place by laying them by the heels. 118 But that is not what I am out for. 119 It's the stone I want.'
120 'And is this Count Sylvius one of your fish?'
121 'Yes, and he's a shark. 122 He bites. 123 The other is Sam Merton, the boxer. 124 Not a bad fellow, Sam, but the Count has used him. 125 Sam's not a shark. 126 He is a great big silly bull-headed gudgeon. 127 But he is flopping about in my net all the same.'
128 'Where is this Count Sylvius?'
129 'I've been at his very elbow all the morning. 130 You've seen me as an old lady, Watson. 131 I was never more convincing. 132 He actually picked up my parasol for me once. 133 "By your leave, madame," said he - half-Italian, you know, and with the Southern graces of manner when in the mood, but a devil incarnate in the other mood. 134 Life is full of whimsical happenings, Watson.'
135 'It might have been tragedy.'
136 'Well, perhaps it might. 137 I followed him to old Straubenzee's workshop in the Minories. 138 Straubenzee made the air-gun - a very pretty bit of work, as I understand, and I rather fancy it is in the opposite window at the present moment. 139 Have you seen the dummy? 140 Of course, Billy showed it to you. 141 Well, it may get a bullet through its beautiful head at any moment. 142 Ah, Billy, what is it?'
143 The boy had reappeared in the room with a card upon a tray. 144 Holmes glanced at it with raised eyebrows and an amused smile.
145 'The man himself. 146 I had hardly expected this. 147 Grasp the nettle, Watson! 148 A man of nerve. 149 Possibly you have heard of his reputation as a shooter of big game. 150 It would indeed be a triumphant ending to his excellent sporting record if he added me to his bag. 151 This is a proof that he feels my toe very close behind his heel.'
152 'Send for the police.'
153 'I probably shall. 154 But not just yet. 155 Would you glance carefully out of the window, Watson, and see if anyone is hanging about in the street?'
156 Watson looked warily round the edge of the curtain.
157 'Yes, there is one rough fellow near the door.'
158 'That will be Sam Merton - the faithful but rather fatuous Sam. 159 Where is this gentleman, Billy?'
160 'In the waiting-room, sir.'
161 'Show him up when I ring.'
162 'Yes, sir.'
163 'If I am not in the room, show him in all the same.'
164 'Yes, sir.'
165 Watson waited until the door was closed, and then he turned earnestly to his companion.
166 'Look here, Holmes, this is simply impossible. 167 This is a desperate man, who sticks at nothing. 168 He may have come to murder you.'
169 'I should not be surprised.'
170 'I insist upon staying with you.'
171 'You would be horribly in the way.'
172 'In his way?'
173 'No, my dear fellow - in my way.'
174 'Well, I can't possibly leave you.'
175 'Yes, you can, Watson. 176 And you will, for you have never failed to play the game. 177 I am sure you will play it to the end. 178 This man has come for his own purpose, but he may stay for mine.' 179 Holmes took out his notebook and scribbled a few lines. 180 'Take a cab to Scotland Yard and give this to Youghal of the CID. 181 Come back with the police. 182 The fellow's arrest will follow.'
183 'I'll do that with joy.'
184 'Before you return I may have just time enough to find out where the stone is.' 185 He touched the bell. 186 'I think we will go out through the bedroom. 187 This second exit is exceedingly useful. 188 I rather want to see my shark without his seeing me, and I have, as you will remember, my own way of doing it.'
189 It was, therefore, an empty room into which Billy, a minute later, ushered Count Sylvius. 190 The famous gameshot, sportsman, and man-about-town was a big, swarthy fellow, with a formidable dark moustache, shading a cruel, thin-lipped mouth, and surmounted by a long, curved nose, like the beak of an eagle. 191 He was well dressed, but his brilliant necktie, shining pin, and glittering rings were flamboyant in their effect. 192 As the door closed behind him he looked round him with fierce, startled eyes, like one who suspects a trap at every turn. 193 Then he gave a violent start as he saw the impassive head and the collar of the dressing-gown which projected above the arm-chair in the window. 194 At first his expression was one of pure amazement. 195 Then the light of a horrible hope gleamed in his dark, murderous eyes. 196 He took one more glance round to see that there were no witnesses, and then, on tiptoe, his thick stick half raised, he approached the silent figure. 197 He was crouching for his final spring and blow when a cool, sardonic voice greeted him from the open bedroom door:
198 'Don't break it, Count! 199 Don't break it!'
200 The assassin staggered back, amazement in his convulsed face. 201 For an instant he half raised his loaded cane once more, as if he would turn his violence from the effigy to the original, but there was something in that steady grey eye and mocking smile which caused his hand to sink to his side.
202 'It's a pretty little thing,' said Holmes, advancing towards the image. 203 'Tavernier, the French modeller made it. 204 He is as good at waxworks as your friend Straubenzee is at air-guns.'
205 'Air-guns, sir! 206 What do you mean?'
207 'Put your hat and stick on the side-table. 208 Thank you! 209 Pray take a seat. 210 Would you care to put your revolver out also? 211 Oh, very good, if you prefer to sit upon it. 212 Your visit is really most opportune, for I wanted badly to have a few minutes' chat with you.'
213 The Count scowled, with heavy, threatening eyebrows.
214 'I too, wished to have some words with you, Holmes. 215 That is why I am here. 216 I won't deny that I intended to assault you just now.'
217 Holmes swung his leg on the edge of the table.
218 'I rather gathered that you had some idea of the sort in your head,' said he. 219 'But why these personal attentions?'
220 'Because you have gone out of your way to annoy me. 221 Because you have put your creatures upon my track.'
222 'My creatures! 223 I assure you no!'
224 'Nonsense! 225 I have had them followed. 226 Two can play at that game, Holmes.'
227 'It is a small point, Count Sylvius, but perhaps you would kindly give me my prefix when you address me. 228 You can understand that, with my routine of work, I should find myself on familiar terms with half the rogues' gallery, and you will agree that exceptions are invidious.'
229 'Well, Mr Holmes, then.'
230 'Excellent! 231 But I assure you you are mistaken about my alleged agents.'
232 Count Sylvius laughed contemptuously.
233 'Other people can observe as well as you. 234 Yesterday there was an old sporting man. 235 To-day it was an elderly woman. 236 They held me in view all day.'
237 'Really, sir, you compliment me. 238 Old Baron Dowson said the night before he was hanged that in my case what the law had gained the stage had lost. 239 And now you give my little impersonations your kindly praise!'
240 'It was you - you yourself?'
241 Holmes shrugged his shoulders. 242 'You can see in the corner the parasol which you so politely handed to me in the Minories before you began to suspect.'
243 'If I had known, you might never-'
244 'Have seen this humble home again. 245 I was well aware of it. 246 We all have neglected opportunities to deplore. 247 As it happens, you did not know, so here we are!'
248 The Count's knotted brows gathered more heavily over his menacing eyes. 249 'What you say only makes the matter worse. 250 It was not your agents, but your play-acting, busybody self! 251 You admit that you have dogged me. 252 Why?'
253 'Come now, Count. 254 You used to shoot lions in Algeria.'
255 'Well?'
256 'But why?'
257 'Why? 258 The sport - the excitement - the danger!'
259 'And, no doubt, to free the country from a pest?'
260 'Exactly!'
261 'My reasons in a nutshell!'
262 The Count sprang to his feet, and his hand involuntarily moved back to his hip-pocket.
263 'Sit down, sir, sit down! 264 There was another, more practical, reason. 265 I want that yellow diamond!'
266 Count Sylvius lay back in his chair with an evil smile.
267 'Upon my word!' said he.
268 'You knew that I was after you for that. 269 The real reason why you are here to-night is to find out how much I know about the matter and how far my removal is absolutely essential. 270 Well, I should say that, from your point of view, it is absolutely essential, for I know all about it, save only one thing, which you are about to tell me.'
271 'Oh, indeed! 272 And, pray, what is this missing fact?'
273 'Where the Crown diamond now is.'
274 The Count looked sharply at his companion. 275 'Oh, you want to know that, do you? 276 How the devil should I be able to tell you where it is?'
277 'You can, and you will.'
278 'Indeed!'
279 'You can't bluff me, Count Sylvius.' 280 Holmes's eyes, as he gazed at him, contracted and lightened until they were like two menacing points of steel. 281 'You are absolute plate-glass. 282 I see to the very back of your mind.'
283 'Then, of course, you see where the diamond is!'
284 Holmes clapped his hands with amusement, and then pointed a derisive finger. 285 'Then you do know. 286 You have admitted it!'
287 'I admit nothing.'
288 'Now, Count, if you will be reasonable, we can do business. 289 If not, you will get hurt.'
290 Count Sylvius threw up his eyes to the ceiling. 291 'And you talk about bluff!' said he.
292 Holmes looked at him thoughtfully, like a master chessplayer who meditates his crowning move. 293 Then he threw open the table drawer and drew out a squat note-book.
294 'Do you know what I keep in this book?'
295 'No, sir, I do not!'
296 'You!'
297 'Me?'
298 'Yes, sir, you! 299 You are all here - every action of your vile and dangerous life.'
300 'Damn you, Holmes!' cried the Count, with blazing eyes. 301 'There are limits to my patience!'
302 'It's all here, Count. 303 The real facts as to the death of old Mrs Harold, who left you the Blymer estate, which you so rapidly gambled away.'
304 'You are dreaming!'
305 'And the complete life history of Miss Minnie Warrender.'
306 'Tut! 307 You will make nothing of that!'
308 'Plenty more here, Count. 309 Here is the robbery in the train-de-luxe to the Riviera on February 13, 1892. 310 Here is the forged cheque in the same year on the Credit Lyonnais.'
311 'No, you're wrong there.'
312 'Then I am right on the others! 313 Now, Count, you are a card-player. 314 When the other fellow has all the trumps, it saves time to throw down your hand.'
315 'What has all this talk to do with the jewel of which you spoke?'
316 'Gently, Count. 317 Restrain that eager mind! 318 Let me get to the points in my own humdrum fashion. 319 I have all this against you, but, above all, I have a clear case against both you and your fighting bully in the case of the Crown diamond.'
320 'Indeed!'
321 'I have the cabman who took you to Whitehall and the cabman who brought you away. 322 I have the Commissionaire who saw you near the case. 323 I have Ikey Sanders, who refused to cut it up for you. 324 Ikey has peached, and the game is up.'
325 The veins stood out on the Count's forehead. 326 His dark, hairy hands were clenched in a convulsion of restrained emotion. 327 He tried to speak, but the words would not shape themselves.
328 'That's the hand I play from,' said Holmes. 329 'I put it all upon the table. 330 But one card is missing. 331 It's the King of Diamonds. 332 I don't know where the stone is.'
333 'You never shall know.'
334 'No? 335 Now, be reasonable, Count. 336 Consider the situation. 337 You are going to be locked up for twenty years. 338 So is Sam Merton. 339 What good are you going to get out of your diamond? 340 None in the world. 341 But if you hand it over - well, I'll compound a felony. 342 We don't want you or Sam. 343 We want the stone. 344 Give that up, and so far as I am concerned you can go free so long as you behave yourself in the future. 345 If you make another slip - well, it will be the last. 346 But this time my commission is to get the stone, not you.'
347 'But if I refuse?'
348 'Why, then - alas! - it must be you and not the stone.'
349 Billy had appeared in answer to a ring.
350 'I think, Count, that it would be as well to have your friend Sam at this conference. 351 After all, his interests should be represented. 352 Billy, you will see a large and ugly gentleman outside the front door. 353 Ask him to come up.'
354 'If he won't come, sir?'
355 'No violence, Billy. 356 Don't be rough with him. 357 If you tell him that Count Sylvius wants him he will certainly come.'
358 'What are you going to do now?' asked the Count, as Billy disappeared.
359 'My friend Watson was with me just now. 360 I told him that I had a shark and a gudgeon in my net, now I am drawing the net and up they come together.'
361 The Count had risen from his chair, and his hand was behind his back. 362 Holmes held something half protruding from the pocket of his dressing-gown.
363 'You won't die in your bed, Holmes.'
364 'I have often had the same idea. 365 Does it matter very much? 366 After all, Count, your own exit is more likely to be perpendicular than horizontal. 367 But these anticipations of the future are morbid. 368 Why not give ourselves up to the unrestrained enjoyment of the present?'
369 A sudden wild-beast light sprang up in the dark, menacing eyes of the master criminal. 370 Holmes's figure seemed to grow taller as he grew tense and ready.
371 'It is no use your fingering your revolver, my friend,' he said, in a quiet voice. 372 'You know perfectly well that you dare not use it, even if I gave you time to draw it. 373 Nasty, noisy things, revolvers, Count. 374 Better stick to air-guns. 375 Ah! 376 I think I hear the fairy footstep of your estimable partner. 377 Good day, Mr Merton. 378 Rather dull in the street, is it not?'
379 The prize-fighter, a heavily built young man with a stupid, obstinate, slab-sided face, stood awkwardly at the door, looking about him with a puzzled expression. 380 Holmes's debonair manner was a new experience, and though he vaguely felt that it was hostile, he did not know how to counter it. 381 He turned to his more astute comrade for help.
382 'What's the game now, Count? 383 What's this fellow want? 384 What's up?' 385 His voice was deep and raucous.
386 The Count shrugged his shoulders and it was Holmes who answered.
387 'If I may put it in a nutshell, Mr Merton, I should say it was all up.'
388 The boxer still addressed his remarks to his associate.
389 'Is this cove trying to be funny, or what? 390 I'm not in the funny mood myself.'
391 'No, I expect not,' said Holmes. 392 'I think I can promise you that you will feel even less humorous as the evening advances. 393 Now, look here, Count Sylvius. 394 I'm a busy man and I can't waste time. 395 I'm going into that bedroom. 396 Pray make yourselves quite at home in my absence. 397 You can explain to your friend how the matter lies without the restraint of my presence. 398 I shall try over the Hoffmann Barcarolle upon my violin. 399 In five minutes I shall return for your final answer. 400 You quite grasp the alternative, do you not? 401 Shall we take you, or shall we have the stone?'
402 Holmes withdrew, picking up his violin from the corner as he passed. 403 A few moments later the long-drawn, wailing notes of that most haunting of tunes came faintly through the closed door of the bedroom.
404 'What is it, then?' asked Merton anxiously, as his companion turned to him. 405 'Does he know about the stone?'
406 'He knows a damned sight too much about it. 407 I'm not sure that he doesn't know all about it.'
408 'Good Lord!' 409 The boxer's sallow face turned a shade whiter.
410 'Ikey Sanders has split on us.'
411 'He has, has he? 412 I'll do him down a thick 'un for that if I swing for it.'
413 'That won't help us much. 414 We've got to make up our minds what to do.'
415 'Half a mo',' said the boxer, looking suspiciously at the bedroom door. 416 'He's a leary cove that wants watching. 417 I suppose he's not listening?'
418 'How can he be listening with that music going?'
419 'That's right. 420 Maybe somebody's behind a curtain. 421 Too many curtains in this room.' 422 As he looked round he suddenly saw for the first time the effigy in the window, and stood staring and pointing, too amazed for words.
423 'Tut! it's only a dummy,' said the Count.
424 'A fake, is it? 425 Well, strike me! 426 Madame Tussaud ain't in it. 427 It's the living spit of him, gown and all. 428 But them curtains, Count!'
429 'Oh, confound the curtains! 430 We are wasting our time, and there is none too much. 431 He can lag us over this stone.'
432 'The deuce he can!'
433 'But he'll let us slip if we only tell him where the swag is.'
434 'What! 435 Give it up? 436 Give up a hundred thousand quid?'
437 'It's one or the other.'
438 Merton scratched his short-cropped pate.
439 'He's alone in there. 440 Let's do him in. 441 If his light were out we should have nothing to fear.'
442 The Count shook his head.
443 'He is armed and ready. 444 If we shot him we could hardly get away in a place like this. 445 Besides, it's likely enough that the police know whatever evidence he has got. 446 Hallo! 447 What was that?'
448 There was a vague sound which seemed to come from the window. 449 Both men sprang round, but all was quiet. 450 Save for the one strange figure seated in the chair, the room was certainly empty.
451 'Something in the street,' said Merton. 452 'Now look here, guv'nor, you've got the brains. 453 Surely you can think a way out of it. 454 If slugging is no use, then it's up to you.'
455 'I've fooled better men than he,' the Count answered.
456 'The stone is here in my secret pocket. 457 I take no chances leaving it about. 458 It can be out of England to-night and cut into four pieces in Amsterdam before Sunday. 459 He knows nothing of Van Seddar.'
460 'I thought Van Seddar was going next week.'
461 'He was. 462 But now he must get off by the next boat. 463 One or other of us must slip round with the stone to Lime Street and tell him.'
464 'But the false bottom ain't ready.'
465 'Well, he must take it as it is and chance it. 466 There's not a moment to lose.' 467 Again, with the sense of danger which becomes an instinct with the sportsman, he paused and looked hard at the window. 468 Yes, it was surely from the street that the faint sound had come.
469 'As to Holmes,' he continued, 'we can fool him easily enough. 470 You see, the damned fool won't arrest us if he can get the stone. 471 Well, we'll promise him the stone. 472 We'll put him on the wrong track about it, and before he finds that it is the wrong track it will be in Holland and we out of the country.'
473 'That sounds good to me!' said Sam Merton, with a grin.
474 'You go on and tell the Dutchman to get a move on him. 475 I'll see this sucker and fill him up with a bogus confession. 476 I'll tell him that the stone is in Liverpool. 477 Confound that whining music, it gets on my nerves! 478 By the time he finds it isn't in Liverpool it will be in quarters and we on the blue water. 479 Come back here, out of a line with that keyhole. 480 Here is the stone.'
481 'I wonder you dare carry it.'
482 'Where could I have it safer? 483 If we could take it out of Whitehall someone else could surely take it out of my lodgings.'
484 'Let's have a look at it.'
485 Count Sylvius cast a somewhat unflattering glance at his associate, and disregarded the unwashed hand which was extended towards him.
486 'What - d'ye think I'm going to snatch it off you? 487 See here, mister, I'm getting a bit tired of your ways.'
488 'Well, well, no offence, Sam. 489 We can't afford to quarrel. 490 Come over to the window if you want to see the beauty properly. 491 Now hold it to the light! 492 Here!'
493 'Thank you!'
494 With a single spring Holmes had leaped from the dummy's chair and had grasped the precious jewel. 495 He held it now in one hand, while his other pointed a revolver at the Count's head. 496 The two villains staggered back in utter amazement. 497 Before they had recovered Holmes had pressed the electric bell.
498 'No violence, gentlemen - no violence, I beg of you! 499 Consider the furniture! 500 It must be very clear to you that your position is an impossible one. 501 The police are waiting below.'
502 The Count's bewilderment overmastered his rage and fear.
503 'But how the deuce-?' he gasped.
504 'Your surprise is very natural. 505 You are not aware that a second door from my bedroom leads behind that curtain. 506 I fancied that you must have heard me when I displaced the figure, but luck was on my side. 507 It gave me a chance of listening to your racy conversation, which would have been painfully constrained had you been aware of my presence.' 508 The Count gave a gesture of resignation.
509 'We give you best, Holmes. 510 I believe you are the devil himself.'
511 'Not far from him, at any rate,' Holmes answered, with a polite smile.
512 Sam Merton's slow intellect had only gradually appreciated the situation. 513 Now, as the sound of heavy steps came from the stairs outside, he broke silence at last.
514 'A fair cop!' said he. 515 'But, I say, what about that bloomin' fiddle! 516 I hear it yet.'
517 'Tut, tut!' Holmes answered. 518 'You are perfectly right. 519 Let it play! 520 These modern gramophones are a remarkable invention.'
521 There was an inrush of police, the handcuffs clicked, and the criminals were led to the waiting cab. 522 Watson lingered with Holmes, congratulating him upon this fresh leaf added to his laurels. 523 Once more their conversation was interrupted by the imperturbable Billy with his card-tray.
524 'Lord Cantlemere, sir.'
525 'Show him up, Billy. 526 This is the eminent peer who represents the very highest interests,' said Holmes. 527 'He is an excellent and loyal person, but rather of the old régime. 528 Shall we make him unbend? 529 Dare we venture upon a slight liberty? 530 He knows, we may conjecture, nothing of what has occurred.'
531 The door opened to admit a thin, austere figure with a hatchet face and drooping mid-Victorian whiskers of a glossy blackness which hardly corresponded with the rounded shoulders and feeble gait. 532 Holmes advanced affably, and shook an unresponsive hand.
533 'How do you do, Lord Cantlemere? 534 It is chilly, for the time of year, but rather warm indoors. 535 May I take your overcoat?'
536 'No, I thank you, I will not take it off.'
537 Holmes laid his hand insistently upon the sleeve.
538 'Pray allow me! 539 My friend Dr Watson would assure you that these changes of temperature are most insidious.'
540 His lordship shook himself free with some impatience.
541 'I am quite comfortable, sir. 542 I have no need to stay. 543 I have simply looked in to know how your self-appointed task was progressing.'
544 'It is difficult - very difficult.'
545 'I feared that you would find it so.'
546 There was a distinct sneer in the old courtier's words and manner.
547 'Every man finds his limitations, Mr Holmes, but at least it cures us of the weakness of self-satisfaction.'
548 'Yes, sir, I have been much perplexed.'
549 'No doubt.'
550 'Especially upon one point. 551 Possibly you could help me upon it?'
552 'You apply for my advice rather late in the day. 553 I thought that you had your own all-sufficient methods. 554 Still, I am ready to help you.'
555 'You see, Lord Cantlemere, we can no doubt frame a case against the actual thieves.'
556 'When you have caught them.'
557 'Exactly. 558 But the question is - how shall we proceed against the receiver?'
559 'Is this not rather premature?'
560 'It is as well to have our plans ready. 561 Now, what would you regard as final evidence against the receiver?'
562 'The actual possession of the stone.'
563 'You would arrest him upon that?'
564 'Most undoubtedly.'
565 Holmes seldom laughed, but he got as near it as his old friend Watson could remember.
566 'In that case, my dear sir, I shall be under the painful necessity of advising your arrest.'
567 Lord Cantlemere was very angry. 568 Some of the ancient fires flickered up into his sallow cheeks.
569 'You take a great liberty, Mr Holmes. 570 In fifty years of official life I cannot recall such a case. 571 I am a busy man, sir, engaged upon important affairs, and I have no time or taste for foolish jokes. 572 I may tell you frankly, sir, that I have never been a believer in your powers, and that I have always been of the opinion that the matter was far safer in the hands of the regular police force. 573 Your conduct confirms all my conclusions. 574 I have the honour, sir, to wish you good evening.'
575 Holmes had swiftly changed his position and was between the peer and the door.
576 'One moment, sir,' said he. 577 'To actually go off with the Mazarin stone would be a more serious offence than to be found in temporary possession of it.'
578 'Sir, this is intolerable! 579 Let me pass.'
580 'Put your hand in the right-hand pocket of your overcoat.'
581 'What do you mean, sir?'
582 'Come - come, do what I ask.'
583 An instant later the amazed peer was standing, blinking and stammering, with the great yellow stone on his shaking palm.
584 'What! 585 What! 586 How is this, Mr Holmes?'
587 'Too bad, Lord Cantlemere, too bad!' cried Holmes. 588 'My old friend here will tell you that I have an impish habit of practical joking. 589 Also that I can never resist a dramatic situation. 590 I took the liberty - the very great liberty, I admit - of putting the stone into your pocket at the beginning of our interview.'
591 The old peer stared from the stone to the smiling face before him.
592 'Sir, I am bewildered. 593 But - yes - it is indeed the Mazarin stone. 594 We are greatly your debtors, Mr Holmes. 595 Your sense of humour may, as you admit, be somewhat perverted, and its exhibition remarkably untimely, but at least I withdraw any reflection I have made upon your amazing professional powers. 596 But how-'
597 'The case is but half finished, the details can wait. 598 No doubt, Lord Cantlemere, your pleasure in telling of this successful result in the exalted circle to which you return will be some small atonement for my practical joke. 599 Billy, you will show his lordship out, and tell Mrs Hudson that I should be glad if she would send up dinner for two as soon as possible.'


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