An Epilogue of Sherlock Holmes
By Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
By Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
It was nine o'clock at night upon the second of August--the mostterrible August in the history of the world. One might havethought already that God's curse hung heavy over a degenerateworld, for there was an awesome hush and a feeling of vagueexpectancy in the sultry and stagnant air. The sun had long set,but one blood-red gash like an open wound lay low in the distantwest. Above, the stars were shining brightly, and below, thelights of the shipping glimmered in the bay. The two famousGermans stood beside the stone parapet of the garden walk, withthe long, low, heavily gabled house behind them, and they lookeddown upon the broad sweep of the beach at the foot of the greatchalk cliff in which Von Bork, like some wandering eagle, hadperched himself four years before. They stood with their headsclose together, talking in low, confidential tones. From belowthe two glowing ends of their cigars might have been thesmouldering eyes of some malignant fiend looking down in thedarkness.
A remarkable man this Von Bork--a man who could hardly be matchedamong all the devoted agents of the Kaiser. It was his talentswhich had first recommended him for the English mission, the mostimportant mission of all, but since he had taken it over thosetalents had become more and more manifest to the half-dozenpeople in the world who were really in touch with the truth. Oneof these was his present companion, Baron Von Herling, the chiefsecretary of the legation, whose huge 100-horse-power Benz carwas blocking the country lane as it waited to waft its owner backto London.
"So far as I can judge the trend of events, you will probably beback in Berlin within the week," the secretary was saying. "Whenyou get there, my dear Von Bork, I think you will be surprised atthe welcome you will receive. I happen to know what is thoughtin the highest quarters of your work in this country." He was ahuge man, the secretary, deep, broad, and tall, with a slow,heavy fashion of speech which had been his main asset in hispolitical career.
Von Bork laughed.
"They are not very hard to deceive," he remarked. "A moredocile, simple folk could not be imagined."
"I don't know about that," said the other thoughtfully. "Theyhave strange limits and one must learn to observe them. It isthat surface simplicity of theirs which makes a trap for thestranger. One's first impression is that they are entirely soft.Then one comes suddenly upon something very hard, and you knowthat you have reached the limit and must adapt yourself to thefact. They have, for example, their insular conventions whichsimply MUST be observed."
"Meaning 'good form' and that sort of thing?" Von Bork sighed asone who had suffered much.
"Meaning British prejudice in all its queer manifestations. Asan example I may quote one of my own worst blunders--I can affordto talk of my blunders, for you know my work well enough to beaware of my successes. It was on my first arrival. I wasinvited to a week-end gathering at the country house of a cabinetminister. The conversation was amazingly indiscreet."
Von Bork nodded. "I've been there," said he dryly.
"Exactly. Well, I naturally sent a resume of the information toBerlin. Unfortunately our good chancellor is a little heavy-handed in these matters, and he transmitted a remark which showedthat he was aware of what had been said. This, of course, tookthe trail straight up to me. You've no idea the harm that it didme. There was nothing soft about our British hosts on thatoccasion, I can assure you. I was two years living it down. Nowyou, with this sporting pose of yours--"
"No, no, don't call it a pose. A pose is an artificial thing.This is quite natural. I am a born sportsman. I enjoy it."
"Well, that makes it the more effective. You yacht against them,you hunt with them, you play polo, you match them in every game,your four-in-hand takes the prize at Olympia. I have even heardthat you go the length of boxing with the young officers. Whatis the result? Nobody takes you seriously. You are a 'good oldsport' 'quite a decent fellow for a German,' a hard-drinking,night-club, knock-about-town, devil-may-care young fellow. Andall the time this quiet country house of yours is the centre ofhalf the mischief in England, and the sporting squire the mostastute secret-service man in Europe. Genius, my dear Von Bork--genius!"
"You flatter me, Baron. But certainly I may claim my four yearsin this country have not been unproductive. I've never shown youmy little store. Would you mind stepping in for a moment?"
The door of the study opened straight on to the terrace. VonBork pushed it back, and, leading the way, he clicked the switchof the electric light. He then closed the door behind the bulkyform which followed him and carefully adjusted the heavy curtainover the latticed window. Only when all these precautions hadbeen taken and tested did he turn his sunburned aquiline face tohis guest.
"Some of my papers have gone," said he. "When my wife and thehousehold left yesterday for Flushing they took the lessimportant with them. I must, of course, claim the protection ofthe embassy for the others."
"Your name has already been files as one of the personal suite.There will be no difficulties for you or your baggage. Ofcourse, it is just possible that we may not have to go. Englandmay leave France to her fate. We are sure that there is nobinding treaty between them."
"Yes, and Belgium, too."
Von Bork shook his head. "I don't see how that could be. Thereis a definite treaty there. She could never recover from such ahumiliation."
"She would at least have peace for the moment."
"But her honor?"
"Tut, my dear sir, we live in a utilitarian age. Honour is amediaeval conception. Besides England is not ready. It is aninconceivable thing, but even our special war tax of fiftymillion, which one would think made our purpose as clear as if wehad advertised it on the front page of the Times, has not rousedthese people from their slumbers. Here and there one hears aquestion. It is my business to find an answer. Here and therealso there is an irritation. It is my business to soothe it.But I can assure you that so far as the essentials go--thestorage of munitions, the preparation for submarine attack, thearrangements for making high explosives--nothing is prepared.How, then, can England come in, especially when we have stirredhe up such a devil's brew of Irish civil war, window-breakingFuries, and God knows what to keep her thoughts at home."
"She must think of her future."
"Ah, that is another matter. I fancy that in the future we haveour own very definite plans about England, and that yourinformation will be very vital to us. It is to-day or to-morrowwith Mr. John Bull. If he prefers to-day we are perfectly ready.If it is to-morrow we shall be more ready still. I should thinkthey would be wiser to fight with allies than without them, butthat is their own affair. This week is their week of destiny.But you were speaking of your papers." He sat in the armchairwith the light shining upon his broad bald head, while he puffedsedately at his cigar.
The large oak-panelled, book-lined room had a curtain hung in thefuture corner. When this was drawn it disclosed a large, brass-bound safe. Von Bork detached a small key from his watch chain,and after some considerable manipulation of the lock he swungopen the heavy door.
"Look!" said he, standing clear, with a wave of his hand.
The light shone vividly into the opened safe, and the secretaryof the embassy gazed with an absorbed interest at the rows ofstuffed pigeon-holes with which it was furnished. Each pigeon-hole had its label, and his eyes as he glanced along them read along series of such titles as "Fords," "Harbour-defences,""Aeroplanes," "Ireland,", "Egypt," "Portsmouth forts," "TheChannel," "Rosythe," and a score of others. Each compartment wasbristling with papers and plans.
"Colossal!" said the secretary. Putting down his cigar he softlyclapped his fat hands.
"And all in four years, Baron. Not such a bad show for the hard-drinking, hard-riding country squire. But the gem of mycollection is coming and there is the setting all ready for it."He pointed to a space over which "Naval Signals" was printed.
"But you have a good dossier there already."
"Out of date and waste paper. The Admiralty in some way got thealarm and every code has been changed. It was a blow, Baron--theworst setback in my whole campaign. But thanks to my check-bookand the good Altamont all will be well to-night."
The Baron looked at his watch and gave a guttural exclamation ofdisappointment.
"Well, I really can wait no longer. You can imagine that thingsare moving at present in Carlton Terrace and that we have all tobe at our posts. I had hoped to be able to bring news of yourgreat coup. Did Altamont name no hour?"
Von Bork pushed over a telegram.
Will come without fail to-night and bring new sparking plugs.
"Sparking plugs, eh?"
"You see he poses as a motor expert and I keep a full garage. Inour code everything likely to come up is named after some sparepart. If he talks of a radiator it is a battleship, of an oilpump a cruiser, and so on. Sparking plugs are naval signals."
"From Portsmouth at midday," said the secretary, examining thesuperscription. "By the way, what do you give him?"
"Five hundred pounds for this particular job. Of course he has asalary as well."
"The greedy rouge. They are useful, these traitors, but I grudgethem their blood money."
"I grudge Altamont nothing. He is a wonderful worker. If I payhim well, at least he delivers the goods, to use his own phrase.Besides he is not a traitor. I assure you that our most pan-Germanic Junker is a sucking dove in his feelings towards Englandas compared with a real bitter Irish-American."
"Oh, an Irish-American?"
"If you heard him talk you would not doubt it. Sometimes Iassure you I can hardly understand him. He seems to havedeclared war on the King's English as well as on the Englishking. Must you really go? He may be here any moment."
"No. I'm sorry, but I have already overstayed my time. We shallexpect you early to-morrow, and when you get that signal bookthrough the little door on the Duke of York's steps you can put atriumphant finis to your record in England. What! Tokay!" Heindicated a heavily sealed dust-covered bottle which stood withtwo high glasses upon a salver.
"May I offer you a glass before your journey?"
"No, thanks. But it looks like revelry."
"Altamont has a nice taste in wines, and he took a fancy to myTokay. He is a touchy fellow and needs humouring in smallthings. I have to study him, I assure you." They had strolledout on to the terrace again, and along it to the further endwhere at a touch from the Baron's chauffeur the great carshivered and chuckled. "Those are the lights of Harwich, Isuppose," said the secretary, pulling on his dust coat. "Howstill and peaceful it all seems. There may be other lightswithin the week, and the English coast a less tranquil place!The heavens, too, may not be quite so peaceful if all that thegood Zepplin promises us comes true. By the way, who is that?"
Only one window showed a light behind them; in it there stood alamp, and beside it, seated at a table, was a dear old ruddy-faced woman in a country cap. She was bending over her knittingand stopping occasionally to stroke a large black cat upon astool beside her.
"That is Martha, the only servant I have left."
The secretary chuckled.
"She might almost personify Britannia," said he, "with hercomplete self-absorption and general air of comfortablesomnolence. Well, au revoir, Von Bork!" With a final wave ofhis hand he sprang into the car, and a moment later the twogolden cones from the headlights shot through the darkness. Thesecretary lay back in the cushions of the luxurious limousine,with his thoughts so full of the impending European tragedy thathe hardly observed that as his car swung round the village streetit nearly passed over a little Ford coming in the oppositedirection.
Von Bork walked slowly back to the study when the last gleams ofthe motor lamps had faded into the distance. As he passed heobserved that his old housekeeper had put out her lamp andretired. It was a new experience to him, the silence anddarkness of his widespread house, for his family and householdhad been a large one. It was a relief to him, however, to thinkthat they were all in safety and that, but for that one old womanwho had lingered in the kitchen, he had the whole place tohimself. There was a good deal of tidying up to do inside hisstudy and he set himself to do it until his keen, handsome facewas flushed with the heat of the burning papers. A leathervalise stood beside his table, and into this he began to packvery neatly and systematically the precious contents of his safe.He had hardly got started with the work, however, when his quickears caught the sounds of a distant car. Instantly he gave anexclamation of satisfaction, strapped up the valise, shut thesafe, locked it, and hurried out on to the terrace. He was justin time to see the lights of a small car come to a halt at thegate. A passenger sprang out of it and advanced swiftly towardshim, while the chauffeur, a heavily built, elderly man with agray moustache, settled down like one who resigns himself to along vigil.
"Well?" asked Von Bork eagerly, running forward to meet hisvisitor.
For answer the man waved a small brown-paper parcel triumphantlyabove his head.
"You can give me the glad hand to-night, mister," he cried. "I'mbringing home the bacon at last."
"Same as I said in my cable. Every last one of them, semaphore,lamp code, Marconi--a copy, mind you, not the original. That wastoo dangerous. But it's the real goods, and you can lay tothat." He slapped the German upon the shoulder with a roughfamiliarity from which the other winced.
"Come in," he said. "I'm all alone in the house. I was onlywaiting for this. Of course a copy is better than the original.If an original were missing they would change the whole thing.You think it's all safe about the copy?"
The Irish-American had entered the study and stretched his longlimbs from the armchair. He was a tall, gaunt man of sixty, withclear-cut features and a small goatee beard which gave him ageneral resemblance to the caricatures of Uncle Sam. A half-smoked, sodden cigar hung from the corner of his mouth, and as hesat down he struck a match and relit it. "Making ready for amove?" he remarked as he looked round him. "Say, mister," headded, as his eyes fell upon the safe from which the curtain wasnow removed, "you don't tell me you keep your papers in that?"
"Gosh, in a wide-open contraption like that! And they reckon youto be some spy. Why, a Yankee crook would be into that with acan-opener. If I'd known that any letter of mine was goin' tolie loose in a thing like that I'd have been a mug to write toyou at all."
"It would puzzle any crook to force that safe," Von Borkanswered. "You won't cut that metal with any tool."
"But the lock?"
"No, it's a double combination lock. You know what that is?"
"Search me," said the American.
"Well, you need a word as well as a set of figures before you canget the lock to work." He rose and showed a double-radiatingdisc round the keyhole. "This outer one is for the letters, theinner one for the figures."
"Well, well, that's fine."
"So it's nit quite as simple as you thought. It was four yearsago that I had it made, and what do you think I chose for theword and figures?"
"It's beyond me."
"Well, I chose August for the word, and 1914 for the figures, andhere we are."
The American's face showed his surprise and admiration.
"My, but that was smart! You had it down to a fine thing."
"Yes, a few of us even then could have guessed the date. Here itis , and I'm shutting down to-morrow morning."
"Well, I guess you'll have to fix me up also. I'm not staying isthis gol-darned country all on my lonesome. In a week or less,from what I see, John Bull will be on his hind legs and fairramping. I'd rather watch him from over the water."
"But you're an American citizen?"
"Well, so was Jack James an American citizen, but he's doing timein Portland all the same. It cuts no ice with a British copperto tell him you're an American citizen. 'It's British law andorder over here,' says he. By the way, mister, talking of JackJames, it seems to me you don't do much to cover your men."
"What do you mean?" Von Bork asked sharply.
"Well, you are their employer, ain't you? It's up to you to seethat they don't fall down. But they do fall down, and when didyou ever pick them up? There's James--"
"It was James's own fault. You know that yourself. He was tooself-willed for the job."
"James was a bonehead--I give you that. Then there was Hollis."
"The man was mad."
"Well, he went a bit woozy towards the end. It's enough to makea man bug-house when he has to play a part from morning to nightwith a hundred guys all ready to set the coppers wise to him.But now there is Steiner--"
Von Bork started violently, and his ruddy face turned a shadepaler.
"What about Steiner?"
"Well, they've got him, that's all. They raided his store lastnight, and he and his papers are all in Portsmouth jail. You'llgo off and he, poor devil, will have to stand the racket, andlucky if he gets off with his life. That's why I want to getover the water as soon as you do."
Von Bork was a strong, self-contained man, but it was easy to seethat the news had shaken him.
"How could they have got on to Steiner?" he muttered. "That'sthe worst blow yet."
"Well, you nearly had a worse one, for I believe they are not faroff me."
"You don't mean that!"
"Sure thing. My landlady down Fratton way had some inquiries,and when I heard of it I guessed it was time for me to hustle.But what I want to know, mister, is how the coppers know thesethings? Steiner is the fifth man you've lost since I signed onwith you, and I know the name of the sixth if I don't get a moveon. How do you explain it, and ain't you ashamed to see your mengo down like this?"
Von Bork flushed crimson.
"How dare you speak in such a way!"
"If I didn't dare things, mister, I wouldn't be in your service.But I'll tell you straight what is in my mind. I've heard thatwith you German politicians when an agent has done his work youare not sorry to see him put away."
Von Bork sprang to his feet.
"Do you dare to suggest that I have given away my own agents!"
"I don't stand for that, mister, but there's a stool pigeon or across somewhere, and it's up to you to find out where it is.Anyhow I am taking no more chances. It's me for little Holland,and the sooner the better."
Von Bork had mastered his anger.
"We have been allies too long to quarrel now at the very hour ofvictory," he said. "You've done splendid work and taken risks,and I can't forget it. By all means go to Holland, and you canget a boat from Rotterdam to New York. No other line will besafe a week from now. I'll take that book and pack it with therest."
The American held the small parcel in his hand, but made nomotion to give it up.
"What about the dough?" he asked.
"The boodle. The reward. The 500 pounds. The gunner turneddamned nasty at the last, and I had to square him with an extrahundred dollars or it would have been nitsky for you and me.'Nothin' doin'!' says he, and he meant it, too, but the lasthundred did it. It's cost me two hundred pound from first tolast, so it isn't likely I'd give it up without gettin' my wad."
Von Bork smiled with some bitterness. "You don't seem to have avery high opinion of my honour," said he, "you want the moneybefore you give up the book."
"Well, mister, it is a business proposition."
"All right. Have your way." He sat down at the table andscribbled a check, which he tore from the book, but he refrainedfrom handing it to his companion. "After all, since we are to beon such terms, Mr. Altamont," said he, "I don't see why I shouldtrust you any more than you trust me. Do you understand?" headded, looking back over his shoulder at the American. "There'sthe check upon the table. I claim the right to examine thatparcel before you pick the money up."
The American passed it over without a word. Von Bork undid awinding of string and two wrappers of paper. Then he sat dazingfor a moment in silent amazement at a small blue book which laybefore him. Across the cover was printed in golden lettersPractical Handbook of Bee Culture. Only for one instant did themaster spy glare at this strangely irrelevant inscription. Thenext he was gripped at the back of his neck by a grasp of iron,and a chloroformed sponge was held in front of his writhing face.
"Another glass, Watson!" said Mr. Sherlock Holmes as he extendedthe bottle of Imperial Tokay.
The thickset chauffeur, who had seated himself by the table,pushed forward his glass with some eagerness.
"It is a good wine, Holmes."
"A remarkable wine, Watson. Our friend upon the sofa has assuredme that it is from Franz Josef's special cellar at theSchoenbrunn Palace. Might I trouble you to open the window, forchloroform vapour does not help the palate."
The safe was ajar, and Holmes standing in front of it wasremoving dossier after dossier, swiftly examining each, and thenpacking it neatly in Von Bork's valise. The German lay upon thesofa sleeping stertorously with a strap round his upper arms andanother round his legs.
"We need not hurry ourselves, Watson. We are safe frominterruption. Would you mind touching the bell? There is no onein the house except old Martha, who has played her part toadmiration. I got her the situation here when first I took thematter up. Ah, Martha, you will be glad to hear that all iswell."
The pleasant old lady had appeared in the doorway. She curtseyedwith a smile to Mr. Holmes, but glanced with some apprehension atthe figure upon the sofa.
"It is all right, Martha. He has not been hurt at all."
"I am glad of that, Mr. Holmes. According to his lights he hasbeen a kind master. He wanted me to go with his wife to Germanyyesterday, but that would hardly have suited your plans, wouldit, sir?"
"No, indeed, Martha. So long as you were here I was easy in mymind. We waited some time for your signal to-night."
"It was the secretary, sir."
"I know. His car passed ours."
"I thought he would never go. I knew that it would not suit yourplans, sir, to find him here."
"No, indeed. Well, it only meant that we waited half an hour orso until I saw your lamp go out and knew that the coast wasclear. You can report to me to-morrow in London, Martha, atClaridge's Hotel."
"Very good, sir."
"I suppose you have everything ready to leave."
"Yes, sir. He posted seven letters to-day. I have the addressesas usual."
"Very good, Martha. I will look into them to-morrow. Good-night. These papers," he continued as the old lady vanished,"are not of very great importance, for, of course, theinformation which they represent has been sent off long ago tothe German government. These are the originals which cold notsafely be got out of the country."
"Then they are of no use."
"I should not go so far as to say that, Watson. They will atleast show our people what is known and what is not. I may saythat a good many of these papers have come through me, and I neednot add are thoroughly untrustworthy. It would brighten mydeclining years to see a German cruiser navigating the Solentaccording to the mine-field plans which I have furnished. Butyou, Watson"--he stopped his work and took his old friend by theshoulders--"I've hardly seen you in the light yet. How have theyears used you? You look the same blithe boy as ever."
"I feel twenty years younger, Holmes. I have seldom felt sohappy as when I got your wire asking me to meet you at Harwichwith the car. But you, Holmes--you have changed very little--save for that horrible goatee."
"These are the sacrifices one makes for one's country, Watson,"said Holmes, pulling at his little tuft. "To-morrow it will bebut a dreadful memory. With my hair cut and a few othersuperficial changes I shall no doubt reappear at Claridge's to-morrow as I was before this American stunt--I beg your pardon,Watson, my well of English seems to be permanently defiled--before this American job came my way."
"But you have retired, Holmes. We heard of you as living thelife of a hermit among your bees and your books in a small farmupon the South Downs."
"Exactly, Watson. Here is the fruit of my leisured ease, themagnum opus of my latter years!" He picked up the volume fromthe table and read out the whole title, Practical Handbook of BeeCulture, with Some Observations upon the Segregation of theQueen. "Alone I did it. Behold the fruit of pensive nights andlaborious days when I watched the little working gangs as once Iwatched the criminal world of London."
"But how did you get to work again?"
"Ah, I have often marvelled at it myself. The Foreign Ministeralone I could have withstood, but when the Premier also deignedto visit my humble roof--! The fact is, Watson, that thisgentleman upon the sofa was a bit too good for our people. Hewas in a class by himself. Things were going wrong, and no onecould understand why they were going wrong. Agents weresuspected or even caught, but there was evidence of some strongand secret central force. It was absolutely necessary to exposeit. Strong pressure was brought upon me to look into the matter.It has cost me two years, Watson, but they have not been devoidof excitement. When I say that I started my pilgrimage atChicago, graduated in an Irish secret society at Buffalo, gaveserious trouble to the constabulary at Skibbareen, and soeventually caught the eye of a subordinate agent of Von Bork, whorecommended me as a likely man, you will realize that the matterwas complex. Since then I have been honoured by his confidence,which has not prevented most of his plans going subtly wrong andfive of his best agents being in prison. I watched them, Watson,and I picked them as they ripened. Well, sir, I hope that youare none the worse!"
The last remark was addressed to Von Bork himself, who after muchgasping and blinking had lain quietly listening to Holmes'sstatement. He broke out now into a furious stream of Germaninvective, his face convulsed with passion. Holmes continued hisswift investigation of documents while his prisoner cursed andswore.
"Though unmusical, German is the most expressive of alllanguages," he observed when Von Bork had stopped from pureexhaustion. "Hullo! Hullo!" he added as he looked hard at thecorner of a tracing before putting it in the box. "This shouldput another bird in the cage. I had no idea that the paymasterwas such a rascal, though I have long had an eye upon him.Mister Von Bork, you have a great deal to answer for."
The prisoner had raised himself with some difficulty upon thesofa and was staring with a strange mixture of amazement andhatred at his captor.
"I shall get level with you, Altamont," he said, speaking withslow deliberation. "If it takes me all my life I shall get levelwith you!"
"The old sweet song," said Holmes. "How often have I heard it indays gone by. It was a favorite ditty of the late lamentedProfessor Moriarty. Colonel Sebastian Moran has also been knownto warble it. And yet I live and keep bees upon the SouthDowns."
"Curse you, you double traitor!" cried the German, strainingagainst his bonds and glaring murder from his furious eyes.
"No, no, it is not so bad as that," said Holmes, smiling. "As myspeech surely shows you, Mr. Altamont of Chicago had no existencein fact. I used him and he is gone."
"Then who are you?"
"It is really immaterial who I am, but since the matter seems tointerest you, Mr. Von Bork, I may say that this is not my firstacquaintance with the members of your family. I have done a gooddeal of business in Germany in the past and my name is probablyfamiliar to you."
"I would wish to know it," said the Prussian grimly.
"It was I who brought about the separation between Irene Adlerand the late King of Bohemia when your cousin Heinrich was theImperial Envoy. It was I also who saved from murder, by theNihilist Klopman, Count Von und Zu Grafenstein, who was yourmother's elder brother. It was I--"
Von Bork sat up in amazement.
"There is only one man," he cried.
"Exactly," said Holmes.
Von Bork groaned and sank back on the sofa. "And most of thatinformation came through you," he cried. "What is it worth?What have I done? It is my ruin forever!"
"It is certainly a little untrustworthy," said Holmes. "It willrequire some checking and you have little time to check it. Youradmiral may find the new guns rather larger than he expects, andthe cruisers perhaps a trifle faster."
Von Bork clutched at his own throat in despair.
"There are a good many other points of detail which will, nodoubt, come to light in good time. But you have one qualitywhich is very rare in a German, Mr. Von Bork: you are asportsman and you will bear me no ill-will when you realize thatyou, who have outwitted so many other people, have at last beenoutwitted yourself. After all, you have done your best for yourcountry, and I have done my best for mine, and what could be morenatural? Besides," he added, not unkindly, as he laid his handupon the shoulder of the prostrate man, "it is better than tofall before some ignoble foe. These papers are now ready,Watson. If you will help me with our prisoner, I think that wemay get started for London at once."
It was no easy task to move Von Bork, for he was a strong and adesperate man. Finally, holding either arm, the two friendswalked him very slowly down the garden walk which he had trodwith such proud confidence when he received the congratulationsof the famous diplomatist only a few hours before. After ashort, final struggle he was hoisted, still bound hand and foot,into the spare seat of the little car. His precious valise waswedged in beside him.
"I trust that you are as comfortable as circumstances permit,"said Holmes when the final arrangements were made. "Should I beguilty of a liberty if I lit a cigar and placed it between yourlips?"
But all amenities were wasted upon the angry German.
"I suppose you realize, Mr. Sherlock Holmes," said he, "that ifyour government bears you out in this treatment it becomes an actof war."
"What about your government and all this treatment?" said Holmes,tapping the valise.
"You are a private individual. You have no warrant for myarrest. The whole proceeding is absolutely illegal andoutrageous."
"Absolutely," said Holmes.
"Kidnapping a German subject."
"And stealing his private papers."
"Well, you realize your position, you and your accomplice here.If I were to shout for help as we pass through the village--"
"My dear sir, if you did anything so foolish you would probablyenlarge the two limited titles of our village inns by giving us'The Dangling Prussian' as a signpost. The Englishman is apatient creature, but at present his temper is a little inflamed,and it would be as well not to try him too far. No, Mr. VonBork, you will go with us in a quiet, sensible fashion toScotland Yard, whence you can send for your friend, Baron VonHerling, and see if even now you may not fill that place which hehas reserved for you in the ambassadorial suite. As to you,Watson, you are joining us with your old service, as Iunderstand, so London won't be out of your way. Stand with mehere upon the terrace, for it may be the last quiet talk that weshall ever have."
The two friends chatted in intimate converse for a few minutes,recalling once again the days of the past, while their prisonervainly wriggled to undo the bonds that held him. As they turnedto the car Holmes pointed back to the moonlit sea and shook athoughtful head.
"There's an east wind coming, Watson."
"I think not, Holmes. It is very warm."
"Good old Watson! You are the one fixed point in a changing age.There's an east wind coming all the same, such a wind as neverblew on England yet. It will be cold and bitter, Watson, and agood many of us may wither before its blast. But it's God's ownwind none the less, and a cleaner, better, stronger land will liein the sunshine when the storm has cleared. Start her up,Watson, for it's time that we were on our way. I have a checkfor five hundred pounds which should be cashed early, for thedrawer is quite capable of stopping it if he can."
Project Gutenberg Etext
prepared by David Brannan of Woodbridge, Virginia.