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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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His Last Bow
The Red Circle

 

1 1

'Well, Mrs Warren, I cannot see that you have any particular cause for uneasiness, nor do I understand why I, whose time is of some value, should interfere in the matter. 2 I really have other things to engage me.' 3 So spoke Sherlock Holmes, and turned back to the great scrap-book in which he was arranging and indexing some of his recent material.
4 But the landlady had the pertinacity, and also the cunning, of her sex. 5 She held her ground firmly.
6 'You arranged an affair for a lodger of mine last year,' she said - 'Mr Fairdale Hobbs.'
7
'Ah, yes - a simple matter.'
8 'But he would never cease talking of it - your kindness, sir, and the way in which you brought light into the darkness. 9 I remembered his words when I was in doubt and darkness myself. 10 I know you could if you only would.'
11 Holmes was accessible upon the side of flattery, and also, to do him justice, upon the side of kindliness. 12 The two forces made him lay down his gum-brush with a sigh of resignation and push back his chair.
13 'Well, well, Mrs Warren, let us hear about it, then. 14 You don't object to tobacco, I take it? 15 Thank you, Watson - the matches! 16 You are uneasy, as I understand, because your new lodger remains in his rooms and you cannot see him. 17 Why, bless you, Mrs Warren, if I were your lodger you often would not see me for weeks on end.'
18 'No doubt, sir, but this is different. 19 It frightens me, Mr Holmes. 20 I can't sleep for fright. 21 To hear his quick step moving here and moving there from early morning to late at night, and yet never to catch so much as a glimpse of him - it's more than I can stand. 22 My husband is as nervous over it as I am, but he is out at his work all day, while I get no rest from it. 23 What is he hiding for? 24 What has he done? 25 Except for the girl, I am all alone in the house with him, and it's more than my nerves can stand.'
26 Holmes leaned forward and laid his long, thin fingers upon the woman's shoulder. 27 He had an almost hypnotic power of soothing when he wished. 28 The scared look faded from her eyes, and her agitated features smoothed into their usual commonplace. 29 She sat down in the chair which he had indicated.
30 'If I take it up I must understand every detail,' said he. 31 'Take time to consider. 32 The smallest point may be the most essential. 33 You say that the man came ten days ago, and paid you for a fortnight's board and lodging?'
34 'He asked my terms, sir. 35 I said fifty shillings a week. 36 There is a small sitting-room and bedroom, and all complete, at the top of the house.'
37 'Well?'
38 'He said, "I'll pay you five pounds a week if I can have it on my own terms." 39 I'm a poor woman, sir, and Mr Warren earns little, and the money meant much to me. 40 He took out a ten-pound note, and he held it out to me then and there. 41 "You can have the same every fortnight for a long time to come if you keep the terms," he said. 42 "If not, I'll have no more to do with you."'
43 'What were the terms?'
44 'Well, sir, they were that he was to have a key of the house. 45 That was all right. 46 Lodgers often have them. 47 Also, that he was to be left entirely to himself, and never, upon any excuse, to be disturbed.'
48 'Nothing wonderful in that, surely?'
49 'Not in reason, sir. 50 But this is out of all reason. 51 He has been there for ten days, and neither Mr Warren, nor I, nor the girl has once set eyes upon him. 52 We can hear that quick step of his pacing up and down, up and down, night, morning, and noon, but except on that first night he has never once gone out of the house.'
53 'Oh, he went out the first night, did he?'
54 'Yes, sir, and returned very late - after we were all in bed. 55 He told me after he had taken the rooms that he would do so, and asked me not to bar the door. 56 I heard him come up the stair after midnight.'
57 'But his meals?'
58 'It was his particular direction that we should always, when he rang, leave his meal upon a chair outside his door. 59 Then he rings again when he has finished, and we take it down from the same chair. 60 If he wants anything else he prints it on a slip of paper and leaves it.'
61 'Prints it?'
62 'Yes, sir, prints it in pencil. 63 Just the word, nothing more. 64 Here's one I brought to show you - SOAP. 65 Here's another - MATCH. 66 This is one he left the first morning - DAILY GAZETTE. 67 I leave that paper with his breakfast every morning.'
68 'Dear me, Watson,' said Holmes, staring with great curiosity at the slips of foolscap which the landlady had handed to him, 'this is certainly a little unusual. 69 Seclusion I can understand, but why print? 70 Printing is a clumsy process. 71 Why not write? 72 What would it suggest, Watson?'
73 'That he desired to conceal his handwriting.'
74 'But why? 75 What can it matter to him that his landlady should have a word of his writing? 76 Still, it may be as you say. 77 Then, again, why such laconic messages?'
78 'I cannot imagine.'
79 'It opens a pleasing field for intelligent speculation. 80 The words are written with a broad-pointed, violet-tinted pencil of a not unusual pattern. 81 You will observe that the paper is torn away at the side here after the printing was done, so that the S of SOAP is partly gone. 82 Suggestive, Watson, is it not?'
83 'Of caution?'
84 'Exactly. 85 There was evidently some mark, some thumbprint, something which might give a clue to the person's identity. 86 Now, Mrs Warren, you say that the man was of middle size, dark, and bearded. 87 What age would he be?'
88 'Youngish, sir - not over thirty.'
89 'Well, can you give me no further indications?'
90 'He spoke good English, sir, and yet I thought he was a foreigner by his accent.'
91 'And he was well dressed?'
92 'Very smartly dressed, sir - quite the gentleman. 93 Dark clothes - nothing you would note.'
94 'He gave no name?'
95 'No, sir.'
96 'And has had no letters or callers?'
97 'None.'
98 'But surely you or the girl enter his room of a morning?'
99 'No, sir, he looks after himself entirely.'
100 'Dear me! that is certainly remarkable. 101 What about his luggage?'
102 'He had one big brown bag with him - nothing else.'
103 'Well, we don't seem to have much material to help us. 104 Do you say nothing has come out of that room - absolutely nothing?'
105 The landlady drew an envelope from her bag, from it she shook out two burnt matches and a cigarette-end upon the table.
106 'They were on his tray this morning. 107 I brought them because I had heard that you can read great things out of small ones.'
108 Holmes shrugged his shoulders.
109 'There is nothing here,' said he. 110 'The matches have, of course, been used to light cigarettes. 111 That is obvious from the shortness of the burnt end. 112 Half the match is consumed in fighting a pipe or cigar. 113 But, dear me! this cigarette stub is certainly remarkable. 114 The gentleman was bearded and moustached, you say?'
115 'Yes, sir.'
116 'I don't understand that. 117 I should say that only a cleanshaven man could have smoked this. 118 Why, Watson, even your modest moustache would have been singed.'
119 'A holder?' I suggested.
120 'No, no, the end is matted. 121 I suppose there could not be two people in your rooms, Mrs Warren?'
122 'No, sir. 123 He eats so little that I often wonder it can keep life in one.'
124 'Well, I think we must wait for a little more material. 125 After all, you have nothing to complain of. 126 You have received your rent, and he is not a troublesome lodger, though he is certainly an unusual one. 127 He pays you well, and if he chooses to lie concealed it is no direct business of yours. 128 We have no excuse for an intrusion upon his privacy until we have some reason to think that there is a guilty reason for it. 129 I've taken up the matter, and I won't lose sight of it. 130 Report to me if anything fresh occurs, and rely upon my assistance if it should be needed.
131 'There are certainly some points of interest in this case, Watson,' he remarked, when the landlady had left us. 132 'It may, of course, be trivial - individual eccentricity, or it may be very much deeper than appears on the surface. 133 The first thing that strikes one is the obvious possibility that the person now in the rooms may be entirely different from the one who engaged them.'
134 'Why should you think so?'
135 'Well, apart from this cigarette-end, was it not suggestive that the only time the lodger went out was immediately after his taking the rooms? 136 He came back - or someone came back-when all witnesses were out of the way. 137 We have no proof that the person who came back was the person who went out. 138 Then, again, the man who took the rooms spoke English well. 139 This other, however, prints "match" when it should have been "matches". 140 I can imagine that the word was taken out of a dictionary, which would give the noun but not the plural. 141 The laconic style may be to conceal the absence of knowledge of English. 142 Yes, Watson, there are good reasons to suspect that there has been a substitution of lodgers.'
143 'But for what possible end?'
144 'Ah! there lies our problem. 145 There is one rather obvious line of investigation.' 146 He took down the great book in which, day by day, he filed the agony columns of the various London journals. 147 'Dear me!' said he, turning over the pages, 'what a chorus of groans, cries, and bleatings! 148 What a rag-bag of singular happenings! 149 But surely the most valuable hunting-ground that ever was given to a student of the unusual! 150 This person is alone, and cannot be approached by letter without a breach of that absolute secrecy which is desired. 151 How is any news or any message to reach him from without? 152 Obviously by advertisement through a newspaper. 153 There seems no other way, and fortunately we need concern ourselves with the one paper only. 154 Here are the Daily Gazette extracts of the last fortnight. 155 "Lady with a black boa at Prince's Skating Club" - that we may pass. 156 "Surely Jimmy will not break his mother's heart" - that appears to be irrelevant. 157 "If the lady who fainted in the Brixton bus" - she does not interest me. 158 "Every day my heart longs-" Bleat, Watson - unmitigated bleat!. 159 Ah! this is a little more possible. 160 Listen to this: "Be patient. 161 Will find some sure means of communication. 162 Meanwhile, this column. 163 - G." 164 That is two days after Mrs Warren's lodger arrived. 165 It sounds plausible, does it not? 166 The mysterious one could understand English, even if he could not print it. 167 Let us see if we can pick up the trace again. 168 Yes, here we are - three days later. 169 "Am making successful arrangements. 170 Patience and prudence. 171 The clouds will pass. 172 - G." 173 Nothing for a week after that. 174 Then comes something much more definite: "The path is clearing. 175 If I find chance signal message remember code agreed - one A, two B, and so on. 176 You will hear soon. 177 - G." 178 That was in yesterday's paper, and there is nothing in to-day's. 179 It's all very appropriate to Mrs Warren's lodger. 180 If we wait a little, Watson, I don't doubt that the affair will grow more intelligible.'
181 So it proved, for in the morning I found my friend standing on the hearthrug with his back to the fire, and a smile of complete satisfaction upon his face.
182 'How's this, Watson?' he cried, picking up the paper from the table. 183 '"High red house with white stone facings. 184 Third floor. 185 Second window left. 186 After dusk. 187 - G." 188 That is definite enough. 189 I think after breakfast we must make a little reconnaissance of Mrs Warren's neighbourhood. 190 Ah, Mrs Warren! what news do you bring us this morning?'
191 Our client had suddenly burst into the room with an explosive energy which told of some new and momentous development.
192 'It's a police matter, Mr Holmes!' she cried. 193 'I'll have no more of it! 194 He shall pack out of that with his baggage. 195 I would have gone straight up and told him so, only I thought it was but fair to you to take your opinion first. 196 But I'm at the end of my patience, and when it comes to knocking my old man about-'
197 'Knocking Mr Warren about?'
198 'Using him roughly, anyway.'
199 'But who used him roughly?'
200 'Ah! that's what we want to know! 201 It was this morning, sir. 202 Mr Warren is a time-keeper at Morton and Waylight's, in Tottenham Court Road. 203 He has to be out of the house before seven. 204 Well, this morning he had not got ten paces down the road when two men came up behind him, threw a coat over his head, and bundled him into a cab that was beside the kerb. 205 They drove him an hour, and then opened the door and shot him out. 206 He lay in the roadway so shaken in his wits that he never saw what became of the cab. 207 When he picked himself up he found he was on Hampstead Heath, so he took a bus home, and there he lies now on the sofa, while I came straight round to tell you what had happened.'
208 'Most interesting,' said Holmes. 209 'Did he observe the appearance of these men - did he hear them talk?'
210 'No, he is clean dazed. 211 He just knows that he was lifted up as if by magic and dropped as if by magic. 212 Two at least were in it, and maybe three.'
213 'And you connect this attack with your lodger?'
214 'Well, we've lived there fifteen years and no such happenings ever came before. 215 I've had enough of him. 216 Money's not everything. 217 I'll have him out of my house before the day is done.'
218 'Wait a bit, Mrs Warren. 219 Do nothing rash. 220 I begin to think that this affair may be very much more important than appeared at first sight. 221 It is clear now that some danger is threatening your lodger. 222 It is equally clear that his enemies, lying in wait for him near your door, mistook your husband for him in the foggy morning fight. 223 On discovering their mistake they released him. 224 What they would have done had it not been a mistake, we can only conjecture.'
225 'Well, what am I to do, Mr Holmes?'
226 'I have a great fancy to see this lodger of yours, Mrs Warren.'
227 'I don't see how that is to be managed, unless you break in the door. 228 I always hear him unlock it as I go down the stair after I leave the tray.'
229 'He has to take the tray in. 230 Surely we could conceal ourselves and see him do it.'
231 The landlady thought for a moment.
232 'Well, sir, there's the box-room opposite. 233 I could arrange a looking-glass, maybe, and if you were behind the door-'
234 'Excellent!' said Holmes. 235 'When does he lunch?'
236 'About one, sir.'
237 'Then Dr Watson and I will come round in time. 238 For the present, Mrs Warren, good-bye.'
239 At half-past twelve we found ourselves upon the steps of Mrs Warren's house - a high, thin, yellow-brick edifice in Great Orme Street, a narrow thoroughfare at the north-east side of the British Museum. 240 Standing as it does near the corner of the street, it commands a view down Howe Street, with its more pretentious houses. 241 Holmes pointed with a chuckle to one of these, a row of residential flats, which projected so that they could not fail to catch the eye.
242 'See, Watson!' said he. 243 '"High red house with stone facings." 244 There is the signal station all right. 245 We know the place, and we know the code, so surely our task should be simple. 246 There's a "To Let" card in that window. 247 It is evidently an empty flat to which the confederate has access. 248 Well, Mrs Warren, what now?'
249 'I have it all ready for you. 250 If you will both come up and leave your boots below on the landing, I'll put you there now.'
251 It was an excellent hiding-place which she had arranged. 252 The mirror was so placed that, seated in the dark, we could very plainly see the door opposite. 253 We had hardly settled down in it, and Mrs Warren left us, when a distant tinkle announced that our mysterious neighbour had rung. 254 Presently the landlady appeared with the tray, laid it down upon a chair beside the closed door, and then, treading heavily, departed. 255 Crouching together in the angle of the door, we kept our eyes fixed upon the mirror. 256 Suddenly, as the landlady's footsteps died away, there was the creak of a turning key, the handle revolved, and two thin hands darted out and lifted the tray from the chair. 257 An instant later it was hurriedly replaced, and I caught a glimpse of a dark, beautiful, horrified face glaring at the narrow opening of the box-room. 258 Then the door crashed to, the key turned once more, and all was silence. 259 Holmes twitched my sleeve, and together we stole down the stair.
260 'I will call again in the evening,' said he to the expectant landlady. 261 'I think, Watson, we can discuss this business better in our own quarters.'
262 'My surmise, as you saw, proved to be correct,' said he, speaking from the depths of his easy-chair. 263 'There has been a substitution of lodgers. 264 What I did not foresee is that we should find a woman, and no ordinary woman, Watson.'
265 'She saw us.'
266 'Well, she saw something to alarm her. 267 That is certain. 268 The general sequence of events is pretty clear, is it not? 269 A couple seek refuge in London from a very terrible and instant danger. 270 The measure of that danger is the rigour of their precautions. 271 The man, who has some work which he must do, desires to leave the woman in absolute safety while he does it. 272 It is not an easy problem, but he solved it in an original fashion, and so effectively that her presence was not even known to the landlady who supplies her with food. 273 The printed messages, as is now evident, were to prevent her sex being discovered by her writing. 274 The man cannot come near the woman, or he will guide their enemies to her. 275 Since he cannot communicate with her direct, he has recourse to the agony column of a paper. 276 So far all is clear.'
277 'But what is at the root of it?'
278 'Ah, yes, Watson - severely practical, as usual! 279 What is at the root of it all? 280 Mrs Warren's whimsical problem enlarges somewhat and assumes a more sinister aspect as we proceed. 281 This much we can say: that it is no ordinary love escapade. 282 You saw the woman's face at the sign of danger. 283 We have heard, too, of the attack upon the landlord, which was undoubtedly meant for the lodger. 284 These alarms, and the desperate need for secrecy, argue that the matter is one of life or death. 285 The attack upon Mr Warren further shows that the enemy, whoever they are, are themselves not aware of the substitution of the female lodger for the male. 286 It is very curious and complex, Watson.'
287 'Why should you go further in it? 288 What have you to gain from it?'
289 'What indeed? 290 It is Art for Art's sake, Watson. 291 I suppose when you doctored you found yourself studying cases without thought of a fee?'
292 'For my education, Holmes.'
293 'Education never ends, Watson. 294 It is a series of lessons with the greatest for the last. 295 This is an instructive case. 296 There is neither money nor credit in it, and yet one would wish to tidy it up. 297 When dusk comes we should find ourselves one stage advanced in our investigation.'
298 When we returned to Mrs Warren's rooms, the gloom of a London winter evening had thickened into one grey curtain, a dead monotone of colour, broken only by the sharp yellow squares of the windows and the blurred haloes of the gas-lamps. 299 As we peered from the darkened sitting-room of the lodging-house, one more dim light glimmered high up through the obscurity.
300 'Someone is moving in that room,' said Holmes in a whisper, his gaunt and eager face thrust forward to the window-pane. 301 'Yes, I can see his shadow. 302 There he is again! 303 He has a candle in his hand. 304 Now he is peering across. 305 He wants to be sure that she is on the look-out. 306 Now he begins to flash. 307 Take the message also, Watson, that we may check each other. 308 A single flash - that is A, surely. 309 Now, then. 310 How many did you make it? 311 Twenty. 312 So did I. 313 That should mean T. AT - that's intelligible enough! 314 Another T. 315 Surely this is the beginning of a second word. 316 Now, then - TENTA. 317 Dead stop. 318 That can't be all, Watson? 319 ATTENTA gives no sense. 320 Nor is it any better as three words - AT. TEN. TA, unless T. A. are a person's initials. 321 There it goes again! 322 What's that? 323 ATTE - why, it is the same message over again. 324 Curious, Watson, very curious! 325 Now he is off once more! 326 AT - why, he is repeating it for the third time. 327 ATTENTA three times! 328 How often will he repeat it? 329 No, that seems to be the finish. 330 He has withdrawn from the window. 331 What do you make of it, Watson?'
332 'A cipher message, Holmes.'
333 My companion gave a sudden chuckle of comprehension. 334 'And not a very obscure cipher, Watson,' said he. 335 'Why, of course, it is Italian! 336 That A means that it is addressed to a woman. 337 "Beware! 338 Beware! 339 Beware!" 340 How's that, Watson?'
341 'I believe you have hit it.'
342 'Not a doubt of it. 343 It is a very urgent message, thrice repeated to make it more so. 344 But beware of what? 345 Wait a bit, he is coming to the window once more.'
346 Again we saw the dim silhouette of a crouching man and the whisk of the small flame across the window, as the signals were renewed. 347 They came more rapidly than before - so rapid that it was hard to follow them.
348 'PERICOLO - Pericolo - Eh, what's that, Watson? 349 Danger, isn't it? 350 Yes, by Jove, it's a danger signal. 351 There he goes again! 352 PERI. 353 Hullo, what on earth-'
354 The light had suddenly gone out, the glimmering square of window had disappeared, and the third floor formed a dark band round the lofty building, with its tiers of shining casements. 355 That last warning cry had been suddenly cut short. 356 How, and by whom? 357 The same thought occurred on the instant to us both. 358 Holmes sprang up from where he crouched by the window.
359 'This is serious, Watson,' he cried. 360 'There is some devilry going forward! 361 Why should such a message stop in such a way? 362 I should put Scotland Yard in touch with this business - and yet, it is too pressing for us to leave.'
363 'Shall I go for the police?'
364 'We must define the situation a little more clearly. 365 It may bear some more innocent interpretation. 366 Come, Watson, let us go across ourselves and see what we can make of it.'

2

367 As we walked rapidly down Howe Street I glanced back at the building which we had left. 368 There, dimly outlined at the top window, I could see the shadow of a head, a woman's head, gazing tensely, rigidly, out into the night, waiting with breathless suspense for the renewal of that interrupted message. 369 At the doorway of the Howe Street flats a man, muffled in a cravat and great-coat, was leaning against the railing. 370 He started as the hall-light fell upon our faces.
371 'Holmes!' he cried.
372 'Why, Gregson!' said my companion, as he shook hands with the Scotland Yard detective. 373 'Journeys end with lovers' meetings. 374 What brings you here?'
375 'The same reasons that bring you, I expect,' said Gregson. 376 'How you got on to it I can't imagine.'
377 'Different threads, but leading up to the same tangle. 378 I've been taking the signals.'
379 'Signals?'
380 'Yes, from that window. 381 They broke off in the middle. 382 We came over to see the reason. 383 But since it is safe in your hands I see no object in continuing the business.'
384 'Wait a bit!' cried Gregson, eagerly. 385 'I'll do you this justice, Mr Holmes, that I was never in a case yet that I didn't feel stronger for having you on my side. 386 There's only the one exit to these flats, so we have him safe.'
387 'Who is he?'
388 'Well, well, we score over you for once, Mr Holmes. 389 You must give us best this time.' 390 He struck his stick sharply upon the ground, on which a cabman, his whip in his hand, sauntered over from a four-wheeler which stood on the far side of the street. 391 'May I introduce you to Mr Sherlock Holmes?' he said to the cabman. 392 'This is Mr Leverton, of Pinkerton's American Agency.'
393 'The hero of the Long Island Cove mystery?' said Holmes. 394 'Sir, I am pleased to meet you.'
395 The American, a quiet, businesslike young man, with a clean-shaven, hatchet face, flushed up at the words of commendation. 396 'I am on the trail of my life now, Mr Holmes,' said he. 397 'If I can get Gorgiano-'
398 'What! 399 Gorgiano of the Red Circle?'
400 'Oh, he has a European fame, has he? 401 Well, we've learned all about him in America. 402 We know he is at the bottom of fifty murders, and yet we have nothing positive we can take him on. 403 I tracked him over from New York, and I've been close to him for a week in London, waiting for some excuse to get my hand on his collar. 404 Mr Gregson and I ran him to ground in that big tenement house, and there's only the one door, so he can't slip us. 405 There's three folk come out since he went in, but I'll swear he wasn't one of them.'
406 'Mr Holmes talks of signals,' said Gregson. 407 'I expect, as usual, he knows a good deal that we don't.'
408 In a few clear words Holmes explained the situation as it had appeared to us. 409 The American struck his hands together with vexation.
410 'He's on to us!' he cried.
411 'Why do you think so?'
412 'Well, it figures out that way, does it not? 413 Here he is, sending out messages to an accomplice - there are several of his gang in London. 414 Then suddenly, just as by your own account he was telling them that there was danger, he broke short off. 415 What could it mean except that from the window he had suddenly either caught sight of us in the street, or in some way come to understand how close the danger was, and that he must act right away if he was to avoid it? 416 What do you suggest, Mr Holmes?'
417 'That we go up at once and see for ourselves.'
418 'But we have no warrant for his arrest.'
419 'He is in unoccupied premises under suspicious circumstances,' said Gregson. 420 'That is good enough for the moment.
421 When we have him by the heels we can see if New York can't help us to keep him. 422 I'll take the responsibility of arresting him now.'
423 Our official detectives may blunder in the matter of intelligence, but never in that of courage. 424 Gregson climbed the stair to arrest this desperate murderer with the same absolutely quiet and businesslike bearing with which he would have ascended the official staircase of Scotland Yard. 425 The Pinkerton man had tried to push past him, but Gregson had firmly elbowed him back. 426 London dangers were the privilege of the London force.
427 The door of the left-hand flat upon the third landing was standing ajar. 428 Gregson pushed it open. 429 Within, all was absolute silence and darkness. 430 I struck a match, and lit the detective's lantern. 431 As I did so, and as the flicker steadied into a flame, we all gave a gasp of surprise. 432 On the deal boards of the carpet-less floor there was outlined a fresh track of blood. 433 The red steps pointed towards us, and led away from an inner room, the door of which was closed. 434 Gregson flung it open and held his light full blaze in front of him, whilst we all peered eagerly over his shoulders.
435 In the middle of the floor of the empty room was huddled the figure of an enormous man, his clean-shaven, swarthy face grotesquely horrible in its contortion, and his head encircled by a ghastly crimson halo of blood, lying in a broad wet circle upon the white woodwork. 436 His knees were drawn up, his hands thrown out in agony, and from the centre of his broad, brown, upturned throat there projected the white haft of a knife driven blade-deep into his body. 437 Giant as he was, the man must have gone down like a pole-axed ox before that terrific blow. 438 Beside his right hand a most formidable horn-handled, two-edged dagger lay upon the floor, and near it a black kid glove.
439 'By George! it's Black Gorgiano himself!' cried the American detective. 440 'Someone has got ahead of us this time.'
441 'Here is the candle in the window, Mr Holmes,' said Gregson. 442 'Why, whatever are you doing?'
443 Holmes had stepped across, had lit the candle, and was passing it backwards and forwards across the window-panes. 444 Then he peered into the darkness, blew the candle out, and threw it on the floor.
445 'I rather think that will be helpful,' said he. 446 He came over and stood in deep thought while the two professionals were examining the body. 447 'You say that three people came out from the flat while you were waiting downstairs,' said he, at last. 448 'Did you observe them closely?'
449 'Yes, I did.'
450 'Was there a fellow about thirty, black-bearded, dark, of middle size?'
451 'Yes, he was the last to pass me.'
452 'That is your man, I fancy. 453 I can give you his description, and we have a very excellent outline of his footmark. 454 That should be enough for you.'
455 'Not much, Mr Holmes, among the millions of London.'
456 'Perhaps not. 457 That is why I thought it best to summon this lady to your aid.'
458 We all turned round at the words. 459 There, framed in the doorway, was a tall and beautiful woman - the mysterious lodger of Bloomsbury. 460 Slowly she advanced, her face pale and drawn with a frightful apprehension, her eyes fixed and staring, her terrified gaze riveted upon the dark figure on the floor.
461 'You have killed him!' she muttered. 462 'Oh, Dio mio, you have killed him!' 463 Then I heard a sudden sharp intake of her breath, and she sprang into the air with a cry of joy. 464 Round and round the room she danced, her hands clapping, her dark eyes gleaming with delighted wonder, and a thousand pretty Italian exclamations pouring from her lips. 465 It was terrible and amazing to see such a woman so convulsed with joy at such a sight. 466 Suddenly she stopped and gazed at us all with a questioning stare.
467 'But you! 468 You are police, are you not? 469 You have killed Giuseppe Gorgiano. 470 Is it not so?'
471 'We are police, madam.'
472 She looked round into the shadows of the room.
473 'But where, then, is Gennaro?' she asked. 474 'He is my husband, Gennaro Lucca. 475 I am Emilia Lucca, and we are both from New York. 476 Where is Gennaro? 477 He called me this moment from this window, and I ran with all my speed.'
478 'It was I who called,' said Holmes.
479 'You! 480 How could you call?'
481 'Your cipher was not difficult, madam. 482 Your presence here was desirable. 483 I knew that I had only to flash "Vieni" and you would surely come.'
484 The beautiful Italian looked with awe at my companion. 485 'I do not understand how you know these things,' she said. 486 'Giuseppe Gorgiano - how did he -' 487 She paused, and then suddenly her face lit up with pride and delight. 488 'Now I see it! 489 My Gennaro! 490 My splendid, beautiful Gennaro, who has guarded me safe from all harm, he did it, with his own strong hand he killed the monster! 491 Oh, Gennaro, how wonderful you are! 492 What woman could ever be worthy of such a man?'
493 'Well, Mrs Lucca,' said the prosaic Gregson, laying his hand upon the lady's sleeve with as little sentiment as if she were a Notting Hill hooligan,'I am not very clear yet who you are or what you are, but you've said enough to make it very clear that we shall want you at the Yard.'
494 'One moment, Gregson,' said Holmes. 495 'I rather fancy that this lady may be as anxious to give us information as we can be to get it. 496 You understand, madam, that your husband will be arrested and tried for the death of the man who lies before us? 497 What you say may be used in evidence. 498 But if you think that he has acted from motives which are not criminal, and which he would wish to have known, then you cannot serve him better than by telling us the whole story.'
499 'Now that Gorgiano is dead we fear nothing,' said the lady. 500 'He was a devil and a monster, and there can be no judge in the world who would punish my husband for having killed him.'
501 'In that case,' said Holmes, 'my suggestion is that we lock this door, leave things as we found them, go with this lady to her room, and form our opinion after we have heard what it is that she has to say to us.'
502 Half an hour later we were seated, all four, in the small sitting-room of Signora Lucca, listening to her remarkable narrative of those sinister events, the ending of which we had chanced to witness. 503 She spoke in rapid and fluent but very unconventional English, which, for the sake of clearness, I will make grammatical.
504 'I was born in Posilippo, near Naples,' said she, 'and was the daughter of Augusto Barelli, who was the chief lawyer and once the deputy of that port. 505 Gennaro was in my father's employment, and I came to love him, as any woman must. 506 He had neither money nor position - nothing but his beauty and strength and energy - so my father forbade the match. 507 We fled together, were married at Bari, and sold my jewels to gain the money which would take us to America. 508 This was four years ago, and we have been in New York ever since.
509 'Fortune was very good to us at first. 510 Gennaro was able to do a service to an Italian gentleman - he saved him from some ruffians in the place called the Bowery, and so made a powerful friend. 511 His name was Tito Castalotte, and he was the senior partner of the great firm of Castalotte and Zamba, who are the chief fruit importers of New York. 512 Signor Zamba is an invalid, and our new friend Castalotte has all power within the firm, which employs more than three hundred men. 513 He took my husband into his employment, made him head of a department, and showed his goodwill towards him in every way. 514 Signor Castalotte was a bachelor, and I believe that he felt as if Gennaro was his son, and both my husband and I loved him as if he were our father. 515 We had taken and furnished a little house in Brooklyn, and our whole future seemed assured, when that black cloud appeared which was soon to overspread our sky.
516 'One night, when Gennaro returned from his work, he brought a fellow-countryman back with him. 517 His name was Gorgiano, and he had come also from Posilippo. 518 He was a huge man, as you can testify, for you have looked upon his corpse. 519 Not only was his body that of a giant, but everything about him was grotesque, gigantic, and terrifying. 520 His voice was like thunder in our little house. 521 There was scarce room for the whirl of his great arms as he talked. 522 His thoughts, his emotions, his passions, all were exaggerated and monstrous. 523 He talked, or rather roared, with such energy that others could but sit and listen, cowed with the mighty stream of words. 524 His eyes blazed at you and held you at his mercy. 525 He was a terrible and wonderful man. 526 I thank God that he is dead!
527 'He came again and again. 528 Yet I was aware that Gennaro was no more happy than I was in his presence. 529 My poor husband would sit pale and listless, listening to the endless raving upon politics and upon social questions which made up our visitor's conversation. 530 Gennaro said nothing, but I who knew him so well could read in his face some emotion which I had never seen there before. 531 At first I thought that it was dislike. 532 And then, gradually, I understood that it was more than dislike. 533 It was fear - a deep, secret, shrinking fear. 534 That night - the night that I read his terror - I put my arms round him and I implored him by his love for me and by all that he held dear to hold nothing from me, and to tell me why this huge man overshadowed him so.
535 'He told me, and my own heart grew cold as ice as I listened. 536 My poor Gennaro, in his wild and fiery days, when all the world seemed against him and his mind was driven half mad by the injustices of life, had joined a Neapolitan society, the Red Circle, which was allied to the old Carbonari. 537 The oaths and secrets of this brotherhood were frightful, but once within its rule no escape was possible. 538 When we had fled to America Gennaro thought that he had cast it all off for ever. 539 What was his horror one evening to meet in the streets the very man who had initiated him in Naples, the giant Gorgiano, a man who had earned the name of "Death" in the South of Italy, for he was red to the elbow in murder! 540 He had come to New York to avoid the Italian police, and he had already planted a branch of this dreadful society in his new home. 541 All this Gennaro told me, and showed me a summons which he had received that very day, a Red Circle drawn upon the head of it, telling him that a lodge would be held upon a certain date, and that his presence at it was required and ordered.
542 'That was bad enough, but worse was to come. 543 I had noticed for some time that when Gorgiano came to us, as he constantly did, in the evening, he spoke much to me, and even when his words were to my husband, those terrible, glaring, wild-beast eyes of his were always turned upon me. 544 One night his secret came out. 545 I had awakened what he called "love" within him - the love of a brute - a savage. 546 Gennaro had not yet returned when he came. 547 He pushed his way in, seized me in his mighty arms, hugged me in his bear's embrace, covered me with kisses, and implored me to come away with him. 548 I was struggling and screaming when Gennaro entered and attacked him. 549 He struck Gennaro senseless and fled from the house which he was never more to enter. 550 It was a deadly enemy that we made that night.
551 'A few days later came the meeting. 552 Gennaro returned from it with a face which told me that something dreadful had occured. 553 It was worse than we could have imagined possible. 554 The funds of the society were raised by blackmailing rich Italians and threatening them with violence should they refuse the money. 555 It seems that Castalotte, our dear friend and benefactor, had been approached. 556 He had refused to yield to threats, and he had handed the notices to the police. 557 It was resolved now that such an example should be made of him as would prevent any other victim from rebelling. 558 At the meeting it was arranged that he and his house should be blown up with dynamite. 559 There was a drawing of lots as to who should carry out the deed. 560 Gennaro saw our enemy's cruel face smiling at him as he dipped his hand in the bag. 561 No doubt it had been prearranged in some fashion, for it was the fatal disc with the Red Circle upon it, the mandate for murder, which lay upon his palm. 562 He was to kill his best friend, or he was to expose himself and me to the vengeance of his comrades. 563 It was part of their fiendish system to punish those whom they feared or hated by injuring not only their own persons, but those whom they loved, and it was the knowledge of this which hung as a terror over my poor Gennaro's head and drove him nearly crazy with apprehension.
564 'All that night we sat together, our arms round each other, each strengthening each for the troubles that lay before us. 565 The very next evening had been fixed for the attempt. 566 By midday my husband and I were on our way to London, but not before he had given our benefactor full warning of his danger, and had also left such information for the police as would safeguard his life for the future.
567 'The rest, gentlemen, you know for yourselves. 568 We were sure that our enemies would be behind us like our own shadows. 569 Gorgiano had his private reasons for vengeance, but in any case we knew how ruthless, cunning, and untiring he could be. 570 Both Italy and America are full of stories of his dreadful powers. 571 If ever they were exerted it would be now. 572 My darling made use of the few clear days which our start had given us in arranging for a refuge for me in such a fashion that no possible danger could reach me. 573 For his own part, he wished to be free that he might communicate both with the American and with the Italian police. 574 I do not myself know where he lived, or how. 575 All that I learned was through the columns of a newspaper. 576 But once, as I looked through my window, I saw two Italians watching the house, and I understood that in some way Gorgiano had found out our retreat. 577 Finally Gennaro told me, through the paper, that he would signal to me from a certain window, but when the signals came they were nothing but warnings, which were suddenly interrupted. 578 It is very clear to me now that he knew Gorgiano to be close upon him, and that, thank God! he was ready for him when he came. 579 And now, gentlemen, I would ask you whether we have anything to fear from the law, or whether any judge upon earth would condemn my Gennaro for what he has done?'
580 'Well, Mr Gregson,' said the American, looking across at the official, 'I don't know what your British point of view may be, but I guess that in New York this lady's husband will receive a pretty general vote of thanks.'
581 'She will have to come with me and see the Chief,' Gregson answered. 582 'If what she says is corroborated, I do not think she or her husband has much to fear. 583 But what I can't make head or tail of, Mr Holmes, is how on earth you got yourself mixed up in the matter.'
584 'Education, Gregson, education. 585 Still seeking knowledge at the old university. 586 Well, Watson, you have one more specimen of the tragic and grotesque to add to your collection. 587 By the way, it is not eight o'clock, and a Wagner night at Covent Garden! 588 If we hurry, we might be in time for the second act.'


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