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THE ADVENTURE OF BLACK PETER - Arthur Connan Doyle


1904

                SHERLOCK HOLMES                             
                                                                            
                THE ADVENTURE OF BLACK PETER                      
                                                                            
 by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle                        
                                                                            
                                                                            
                                                                            
  I have never known my friend to be in better form, both mental and        
physical, than in the year '95. His increasing fame had brought with        
it an immense practice, and I should be guilty of an indiscretion if I      
were even to hint at the identity of some of the illustrious clients        
who crossed our humble threshold in Baker Street. Holmes, however,          
like all great artists, lived for his art's sake, and, save in the          
case of the Duke of Holdernesse, I have seldom known him claim any          
large reward for his inestimable services. So unworldly was he- or          
so capricious- that he frequently refused his help to the powerful and      
wealthy where the problem made no appeal to his sympathies, while he        
would devote weeks of most intense application to the affairs of            
some humble client whose case presented those strange and dramatic          
qualities which appealed to his imagination and challenged his              
ingenuity.                                                                  
  In this memorable year '95, a curious and incongruous succession          
of cases had engaged his attention, ranging from his famous                 
investigation of the sudden death of Cardinal Tosca- an inquiry             
which was carried out by him at the express desire of His Holiness the      
Pope- down to his arrest of Wilson, the notorious canary-trainer,           
which removed a plague-spot from the East End of London. Close on           
the heels of these two famous cases came the tragedy of Woodman's Lee,      
and the very obscure circumstances which surrounded the death of            
Captain Peter Carey. No record of the doings of Mr. Sherlock Holmes         
would be complete which did not include some account of this very           
unusual affair.                                                             
  During the first week of July, my friend had been absent so often         
and so long from our lodgings that I knew he had something on hand.         
The fact that several rough-looking men called during that time and         
inquired for Captain Basil made me understand that Holmes was               
working somewhere under one of the numerous disguises and names with        
which he concealed his own formidable identity. He had at least five        
small refuges in different parts of London, in which he was able to         
change his personality. He said nothing of his business to me, and          
it was not my habit to force a confidence. The first positive sign          
which he gave me of the direction which his investigation was taking        
was an extraordinary one. He had gone out before breakfast, and I           
had sat down to mine when he strode into the room, his hat upon his         
head and a huge barbed-headed spear tucked like an umbrella under           
his arm.                                                                    
  "Good gracious, Holmes!" I cried. "You don't mean to say that you         
have been walking about London with that thing?"                            
  "I drove to the butcher's and back."                                      
  "The butcher's?"                                                          
  "And I return with an excellent appetite. There can be no                 
question, my dear Watson, of the value of exercise before breakfast.        
But I am prepared to bet that you will not guess the form that my           
exercise has taken."                                                        
  "I will not attempt it."                                                  
  He chuckled as he poured out the coffee.                                  
  "If you could have looked into Allardyce's back shop, you would have      
seen a dead pig swung from a hook in the ceiling, and a gentleman in        
his shirt sleeves furiously stabbing at it with this weapon. I was          
that energetic person, and I have satisfied myself that by no exertion      
of my strength can I transfix the pig with a single blow. Perhaps           
you would care to try?"                                                     
  "Not for worlds. But why were you doing this?"                            
  "Because it seemed to me to have an indirect bearing upon the             
mystery of Woodman's Lee. Ah, Hopkins, I got your wire last night, and      
I have been expecting you. Come and join us."                               
  Our visitor was an exceedingly alert man, thirty years of age,            
dressed in a quiet tweed suit, but retaining the erect bearing of           
one who was accustomed to official uniform. I recognized him at once        
as Stanley Hopkins, a young police inspector, for whose future              
Holmes had high hopes, while he in turn professed the admiration and        
respect of a pupil for the scientific methods of the famous amateur.        
Hopkins's brow was clouded, and he sat down with an air of deep             
dejection.                                                                  
  "No, thank you, sir. I breakfasted before I came round. I spent           
the night in town, for I came up yesterday to report."                      
  "And what had you to report?"                                             
  "Failure, sir, absolute failure."                                         
  "You have made no progress?"                                              
  "None."                                                                   
  "Dear me! I must have a look at the matter."                              
  "I wish to heavens that you would, Mr. Holmes. It's my first big          
chance, and I am at my wit's end. For goodness' sake, come down and         
lend me a hand."                                                            
  "Well, well, it just happens that I have already read all the             
available evidence, including the report of the inquest, with some          
care. By the way, what do you make of that tobacco pouch, found on the      
scene of the crime? Is there no clue there?"                                
  Hopkins looked surprised.                                                 
  "It was the man's own pouch, sir. His initials were inside it. And        
it was of sealskin,- and he was an old sealer."                             
  "But he had no pipe."                                                     
  "No, sir, we could find no pipe. Indeed, he smoked very little,           
and yet he might have kept some tobacco for his friends."                   
  "No doubt. I only mention it because, if I had been handling the          
case, I should have been inclined to make that the starting-point of        
my investigation. However, my friend, Dr. Watson, knows nothing of          
this matter, and I should be none the worse for hearing the sequence        
of events once more. Just give us some short sketches of the                
essentials."                                                                
  Stanley Hopkins drew a slip of paper from his pocket.                     
  "I have a few dates here which will give you the career of the            
dead man, Captain Peter Carey. He was born in '45- fifty years of age.      
He was a most daring and successful seal and whale fisher. In 1883          
he commanded the steam sealer Sea Unicorn, of Dundee. He had then           
had several successful voyages in succession, and in the following          
year, 1884, he retired. After that he travelled for some years, and         
finally he bought a small place called Woodman's Lee, near Forest Row,      
in Sussex. There he has lived for six years, and there he died just         
a week ago to-day.                                                          
  "There were some most singular points about the man. In ordinary          
life, he was a strict Puritan- a silent, gloomy fellow. His                 
household consisted of his wife, his daughter, aged twenty, and two         
female servants. These last were continually changing, for it was           
never a very cheery situation, and sometimes it became past all             
bearing. The man was an intermittent drunkard, and when he had the fit      
on him he was a perfect fiend. He has been known to drive his wife and      
daughter out of doors in the middle of the night and flog them through      
the park until the whole village outside the gates was aroused by           
their screams.                                                              
  "He was summoned once for a savage assault upon the old vicar, who        
had called upon him to remonstrate with him upon his conduct. In            
short, Mr. Holmes, you would go far before you found a more                 
dangerous man than Peter Carey, and I have heard that he bore the same      
character when he commanded his ship. He was known in the trade as          
Black Peter, and the name was given him, not only on account of his         
swarthy features and the colour of his huge beard, but for the humours      
which were the terror of all around him. I need not say that he was         
loathed and avoided by every one of his neighbours, and that I have         
not heard one single word of sorrow about his terrible end.                 
  "You must have read in the account of the inquest about the man's         
cabin, Mr. Holmes, but perhaps your friend here has not heard of it.        
He had built himself a wooden outhouse- he always called it the             
'cabin'- a few hundred yards from his house, and it was here that he        
slept every night. It was a little, single-roomed hut, sixteen feet by      
ten. He kept the key in his pocket, made his own bed, cleaned it            
himself, and allowed no other foot to cross the threshold. There are        
small windows on each side, which were covered by curtains and never        
opened. One of these windows was turned towards the high road, and          
when the light burned in it at night the folk used to point it out          
to each other and wonder what Black Peter was doing in there. That's        
the window, Mr. Holmes, which gave us one of the few bits of                
positive evidence that came out at the inquest.                             
  "You remember that a stonemason, named Slater, walking from Forest        
Row about one o'clock in the morning- two days before the murder-           
stopped as he passed the grounds and looked at the square of light          
still shining among the trees. He swears that the shadow of a man's         
head turned sideways was clearly visible on the blind, and that this        
shadow was certainly not that of Peter Carey, whom he knew well. It         
was that of a bearded man, but the beard was short and bristled             
forward in a way very different from that of the captain. So he             
says, but he had been two hours in the public-house, and it is some         
distance from the road to the window. Besides, this refers to the           
Monday, and the crime was done upon the Wednesday.                          
  "On the Tuesday, Peter Carey was in one of his blackest moods,            
flushed with drink and as savage as a dangerous wild beast. He              
roamed about the house, and the women ran for it when they heard him        
coming. Late in the evening, he went down to his own hut. About two         
o'clock the following morning, his daughter, who slept with her window      
open, heard a most fearful yell from that direction, but it was no          
unusual thing for him to bawl and shout when he was in drink, so no         
notice was taken. On rising at seven, one of the maids noticed that         
the door of the hut was open, but so great was the terror which the         
man caused that it was midday before anyone would venture down to           
see what had become of him. Peeping into the open door, they saw a          
sight which sent them flying, with white faces, into the village.           
Within an hour, I was on the spot and had taken over the case.              
  "Well, I have fairly steady nerves, as you know, Mr. Holmes, but I        
give you my word, that I got a shake when I put my head into that           
little house. It was droning like a harmonium with the flies and            
bluebottles, and the floor and walls were like a slaughter-house. He        
had called it a cabin, and a cabin it was, sure enough, for you             
would have thought that you were in a ship. There was a bunk at one         
end, a sea-chest, maps and charts, a picture of the Sea Unicorn, a          
line of logbooks on a shelf, all exactly as one would expect to find        
it in a captain's room. And there, in the middle of it, was the man         
himself- his face twisted like a lost soul in torment, and his great        
brindled beard stuck upward in his agony. Right through his broad           
breast a steel harpoon had been driven, and it had sunk deep into           
the wood of the wall behind him. He was pinned like a beetle on a           
card. Of course, he was quite dead, and had been so from the instant        
that he had uttered that last yell of agony.                                
  "I know your methods, sir, and I applied them. Before I permitted         
anything to be moved, I examined most carefully the ground outside,         
and also the floor of the room. There were no footmarks."                   
  "Meaning that you saw none?"                                              
  "I assure you, sir, that there were none."                                
  "My good Hopkins, I have investigated many crimes, but I have             
never yet seen one which was committed by a flying creature. As long        
as the criminal remains upon two legs so long must there be some            
indentation, some abrasion, some trifling displacement which can be         
detected by the scientific searcher. It is incredible that this             
blood-bespattered room contained no trace which could have aided us. I      
understand, however, from the inquest that there were some objects          
which you failed to overlook?"                                              
  The young inspector winced at my companion's ironical comments.           
  "I was a fool not to call you in at the time Mr. Holmes. However,         
that's past praying for now. Yes, there were several objects in the         
room which called for special attention. One was the harpoon with           
which the deed was committed. It had been snatched down from a rack on      
the wall. Two others remained there, and there was a vacant place           
for the third. On the stock was engraved 'SS. Sea Unicorn, Dundee.'         
This seemed to establish that the crime had been done in a moment of        
fury, and that the murderer had seized the first weapon which came          
in his way. The fact that the crime was committed at two in the             
morning, and yet Peter Carey was fully dressed, suggested that he           
had an appointment with the murderer, which is home out by the fact         
that a bottle of rum and two dirty glasses stood upon the table."           
  "Yes," said Holmes; "I think that both inferences are permissible.        
Was there any other spirit but rum in the room?"                            
  "Yes, there was a tantalus containing brandy and whisky on the            
sea-chest. It is of no importance to us, however, since the                 
decanters were full, and it had therefore not been used."                   
  "For all that, its presence has some significance," said Holmes.          
"However, let us hear some more about the objects which do seem to you      
to bear upon the case."                                                     
  "There was this tobacco-pouch upon the table."                            
  "What part of the table?"                                                 
  "It lay in the middle. It was of coarse sealskin- the                     
straight-haired skin, with a leather thong to bind it. Inside was           
'P.C.' on the flap. There was half an ounce of strong ship's tobacco        
in it."                                                                     
  "Excellent! What more?"                                                   
  Stanley Hopkins drew from his pocket a drab-covered notebook. The         
outside was rough and worn, the leaves discoloured. On the first            
page were written the initials "J.H.N." and the date "1883." Holmes         
laid it on the table and examined it in his minute way, while               
Hopkins and I gazed over each shoulder. On the second page were the         
printed letters "C.P.R.," and then came several sheets of numbers.          
Another heading was "Argentine," another "Costa Rica," and another          
"San Paulo," each with pages of signs and figures after it.                 
  "What do you make of these?" asked Holmes.                                
  "They appear to be lists of Stock Exchange securities. I thought          
that 'J.H.N.' were the initials of a broker, and that 'C.P.R.' may          
have been his client."                                                      
  "Try Canadian Pacific Railway," said Holmes.                              
  Stanley Hopkins swore between his teeth, and struck his thigh with        
his clenched hand.                                                          
  "What a fool I have been!" he cried. "Of course, it is as you say.        
Then 'J.H.N.' are the only initials we have to solve. I have already        
examined the old Stock Exchange lists, and I can find no one in             
1883, either in the house or among the outside brokers, whose initials      
correspond with these. Yet I feel that the clue is the most                 
important one that I hold. You will admit, Mr. Holmes, that there is a      
possibility that these initials are those of the second person who was      
present- in other words, of the murderer. I would also urge that the        
introduction into the case of a document relating to large masses of        
valuable securities gives us for the first time some indication of a        
motive for the crime."                                                      
  Sherlock Holmes's face showed that he was thoroughly taken aback          
by this new development.                                                    
  "I must admit both your points," said he. "I confess that this            
notebook, which did not appear at the inquest, modifies any views           
which I may have formed. I had come to a theory of the crime in             
which I can find no place for this. Have you endeavoured to trace           
any of the securities here mentioned?"                                      
  "Inquiries are now being made at the offices, but I fear that the         
complete register of the stockholders of these South American concerns      
is in South America, and that some weeks must elapse before we can          
trace the shares."                                                          
  Holmes had been examining the cover of the notebook with his              
magnifying lens.                                                            
  "Surely there is some discolouration here," said he.                      
  "Yes, sir, it is a blood-stain. I told you that I picked the book         
off the floor."                                                             
  "Was the blood-stain above or below?"                                     
  "On the side next the boards."                                            
  "Which proves, of course, that the book was dropped after the             
crime was committed."                                                       
  "Exactly, Mr. Holmes. I appreciated that point, and I conjectured         
that it was dropped by the murderer in his hurried flight. It lay near      
the door."                                                                  
  "I suppose that none of these securities have been found among the        
property of the dead man?"                                                  
  "No, sir."                                                                
  "Have you any reason to suspect robbery?"                                 
  "No, sir. Nothing seemed to have been touched."                           
  "Dear me, it is certainly a very interesting case. Then there was         
a knife, was there not?"                                                    
  "A sheath-knife, still in its sheath. It lay at the feet of the dead      
man. Mrs. Carey has identified it as being her husband's property."         
  Holmes was lost in thought for some time.                                 
  "Well," said he, at last, "I suppose I shall have to come out and         
have a look at it."                                                         
  Stanley Hopkins gave a cry of joy.                                        
  "Thank you, sir. That will, indeed, be a weight off my mind."             
  Holmes shook his finger at the inspector.                                 
  "It would have been an easier task a week ago," said he. "But even        
now my visit may not be entirely fruitless. Watson, if you can spare        
the time, I should be very glad of your company. If you will call a         
four-wheeler, Hopkins, we shall be ready to start for Forest Row in         
a quarter of an hour."                                                      
-                                                                           
  Alighting at the small wayside station, we drove for some miles           
through the remains of widespread woods, which were once part of            
that great forest which for so long held the Saxon invaders at bay-         
the impenetrable "weald," for sixty years the bulwark of Britain. Vast      
sections of it have been cleared, for this is the seat of the first         
iron-works of the country, and the trees have been felled to smelt the      
ore. Now the richer fields of the North have absorbed the trade, and        
nothing save these ravaged groves and great scars in the earth show         
the work of the past. Here, in a clearing upon the green slope of a         
hill, stood a long, low, stone house, approached by a curving drive         
running through the fields. Nearer the road, and surrounded on three        
sides by bushes, was a small outhouse, one window and the door              
facing in our direction. It was the scene of the murder.                    
  Stanley Hopkins led us first to the house, where he introduced us to      
a haggard, gray-haired woman, the widow of the murdered man, whose          
gaunt and deep-lined face, with the furtive look of terror in the           
depths of her red-rimmed eyes, told of the years of hardship and            
ill-usage which she had endured. With her was her daughter, a pale,         
fair-haired girl, whose eyes blazed defiantly at us as she told us          
that she was glad that her father was dead, and that she blessed the        
hand which had struck him down. It was a terrible household that Black      
Peter Carey had made for himself, and it was with a sense of relief         
that we found ourselves in the sunlight again and making our way along      
a path which had been worn across the fields by the feet of the dead        
man.                                                                        
  The outhouse was the simplest of dwellings, wooden-walled,                
shingle-roofed, one window beside the door and one on the farther           
side. Stanley Hopkins drew the key from his pocket and had stooped          
to the lock, when he paused with a look of attention and surprise upon      
his face.                                                                   
  Somone has been tampering with it," he said.                              
  There could be no doubt of the fact. The woodwork was cut, and the        
scratches showed white through the paint, as if they had been that          
instant done. Holmes had been examining the window.                         
  "Someone has tried to force this also. Whoever it was has failed          
to make his way in. He must have been a very poor burglar."                 
  "This is a most extraordinary thing," said the inspector, "I could        
swear that these marks were not here yesterday evening."                    
  "Some curious person from the village, perhaps," I suggested.             
  "Very unlikely. Few of them would dare to set foot in the grounds,        
far less try to force their way into the cabin. What do you think of        
it, Mr. Holmes?"                                                            
  "I think that fortune is very kind to us."                                
  "You mean that the person will come again?"                               
  "It is very probable. He came expecting to find the door open. He         
tried to get in with the blade of a very small penknife. He could           
not manage it. What would he do?"                                           
  "Come again next night with a more useful tool."                          
  "So I should say. It will be our fault if we are not there to             
receive him. Meanwhile, let me see the inside of the cabin."                
  The traces of the tragedy had been removed, but the furniture within      
the little room still stood as it had been on the night of the              
crime. For two hours, with most intense concentration, Holmes examined      
every object in turn, but his face showed that his quest was not a          
successful one. Once only he paused in his patient investigation.           
  "Have you taken anything off this shelf, Hopkins?"                        
  "No, I have moved nothing."                                               
  "Something has been taken. There is less dust in this corner of           
the shelf than elsewhere. It may have been a book lying on its side.        
It may have been a box. Well, well, I can do nothing more. Let us walk      
in these beautiful woods, Watson, and give a few hours to the birds         
and the flowers. We shall meet you here later, Hopkins, and see if          
we can come to closer quarters with the gentleman who has paid this         
visit in the night."                                                        
  It was past eleven o'clock when we formed our little ambuscade.           
Hopkins was for leaving the door of the hut open, but Holmes was of         
the opinion that this would rouse the suspicions of the stranger.           
The lock was a perfectly simple one, and only a strong blade was            
needed to push it back. Holmes also suggested that we should wait, not      
inside the hut, but outside it, among the bushes which grew round           
the farther window. In this way we should be able to watch our man          
if he struck a light, and see what his object was in this stealthy          
nocturnal visit.                                                            
  It was a long and melancholy vigil, and yet brought with it               
something of the thrill which the bunter feels when he lies beside the      
water-pool, and waits for the coming of the thirsty beast of prey.          
What savage creature was it which might steal upon us out of the            
darkness? Was it a fierce tiger of crime, which could only be taken         
fighting hard with flashing fang and claw, or would it prove to be          
some skulking jackal, dangerous only to the weak and unguarded?             
  In absolute silence we crouched amongst the bushes, waiting for           
whatever might come. At first the steps of a few belated villagers, or      
the sound of voices from the village, lightened our vigil, but one          
by one these interruptions died away, and an absolute stillness fell        
upon us, save for the chimes of the distant church, which told us of        
the progress of the night, and for the rustle and whisper of a fine         
rain falling amid the foliage which roofed us in.                           
  Half-past two had chimed, and it was the darkest hour which precedes      
the dawn, when we all started as a low but sharp click came from the        
direction of the gate. Someone had entered the drive. Again there           
was a long silence, and I had begun to fear that it was a false alarm,      
when a stealthy step was heard upon the other side of the hut, and a        
moment later a metallic scraping and clinking. The man was trying to        
force the lock. This time his skill was greater or his tool was             
better, for there was a sudden snap and the creak of the hinges.            
Then a match was struck, and next instant the steady light from a           
candle filled the interior of the hut. Through the gauze curtain our        
eyes were all riveted upon the scene within.                                
  The nocturnal visitor was a young man, frail and thin, with a             
black moustache, which intensified the deadly pallor of his face. He        
could not have been much above twenty years of age. I have never            
seen any human being who appeared to be in such a pitiable fright, for      
his teeth were visibly chattering, and he was shaking in every limb.        
He was dressed like a gentleman, in Norfolk jacket and knickerbockers,      
with a cloth cap upon his head. We watched him staring round with           
frightened eyes. Then he laid the candle-end upon the table and             
disappeared from our view into one of the corners. He returned with         
a large book, one of the logbooks which formed a line upon the              
shelves. Leaning on the table, he rapidly turned over the leaves of         
this volume until he came to the entry which he sought. Then, with          
an angry gesture of his clenched hand, he closed the book, replaced it      
in the corner, and put out the light. He had hardly turned to leave         
the hut when Hopkins's hand was on the fellow's collar, and I heard         
his loud gasp of terror as he understood that he was taken. The candle      
was relit, and there was our wretched captive, shivering and                
cowering in the grasp of the detective. He sank down upon the               
sea-chest, and looked helplessly from one of us to the other.               
  "Now, my fine fellow," said Stanley Hopkins, "who are you, and            
what do you want here?"                                                     
  The man pulled himself together, and faced us with an effort at           
self-composure.                                                             
  "You are detectives, I suppose?" said he. "You imagine I am               
connected with the death of Captain Peter Carey. I assure you that I        
am innocent."                                                               
  "We'll see about that," said Hopkins. "First of all, what is your         
name?"                                                                      
  "It is John Hopley Neligan."                                              
  I saw Holmes and Hopkins exchange a quick glance.                         
  "What are you doing here?"                                                
  "Can I speak confidentially?"                                             
  "No, certainly not."                                                      
  "Why should I tell you?"                                                  
  "If you have no answer, it may go badly with you at the trial."           
  The young man winced.                                                     
  "Well, I will tell you," he said. "Why should I not? And yet I            
hate to think of this old scandal gaining a new lease of life. Did you      
ever hear of Dawson and Neligan?"                                           
  I could see, from Hopkins's face, that he never had, but Holmes           
was keenly interested.                                                      
  "You mean the West Country bankers," said he. "They failed for a          
million, ruined half the county families of Cornwall, and Neligan           
disappeared."                                                               
  "Exactly. Neligan was my father."                                         
  At last we were getting something positive, and yet it seemed a long      
gap between an absconding banker and Captain Peter Carey pinned             
against the wall with one of his own harpoons. We all listened              
intently to the young man's words.                                          
  "It was my father who was really concerned. Dawson had retired. I         
was only ten years of age at the time, but I was old enough to feel         
the shame and horror of it all. It has always been said that my father      
stole all the securities and fled. It is not true. It was his belief        
that if he were given time in which to realize them, all would be well      
and every creditor paid in full. He started in his little yacht for         
Norway just before the warrant was issued for his arrest. I can             
remember that last night when he bade farewell to my mother. He left        
us a list of the securities he was taking, and he swore that he             
would come back with his honour cleared, and that none who had trusted      
him would suffer. Well, no word was ever heard from him again. Both         
the yacht and he vanished utterly. We believed, my mother and I,            
that he and it, with the securities that he had taken with him, were        
at the bottom of the sea. We had a faithful friend, however, who is         
a business man, and it was he who discovered some time ago that some        
of the securities which my father had with him had reappeared on the        
London market. You can imagine our amazement. I spent months in trying      
to trace them, and at last, after many doubtings and difficulties, I        
discovered that the original seller had been Captain Peter Carey,           
the owner of this hut.                                                      
  "Naturally, I made some inquiries about the man. I found that he had      
been in command of a whaler which was due to return from the Arctic         
seas at the very time when my father was crossing to Norway. The            
autumn of that year was a stormy one, and there was a long                  
succession of southerly gales. My father's yacht may well have been         
blown to the north, and there met by Captain Peter Carey's ship. If         
that were so, what had become of my father? In any case, if I could         
prove from Peter Carey's evidence how these securities came on the          
market it would be a proof that my father had not sold them, and            
that he had no view to personal profit when he took them.                   
  "I came down to Sussex with the intention of seeing the captain, but      
it was at this moment that his terrible death occurred. I read at           
the inquest a description of his cabin, in which it stated that the         
old logbooks of his vessel were preserved in it. It struck me that          
if I could see what occurred in the month of August, 1883, on board         
the Sea Unicorn, I might settle the mystery of my father's fate. I          
tried last night to get at these logbooks, but was unable to open           
the door. To-night I tried again and succeeded, but I find that the         
pages which deal with that month have been torn from the book. It was       
at that moment I found myself a prisoner in your hands."                    
  "Is that all?" asked Hopkins.                                             
  "Yes, that is all." His eyes shifted as he said it.                       
  "You have nothing else to tell us?"                                       
  He hesitated.                                                             
  "No, there is nothing."                                                   
  "You have not been here before last night?"                               
  "No.                                                                      
  "Then how do you account for that?" cried Hopkins, as he held up the      
damning notebook, with the initials of our prisoner on the first            
leaf and the blood-stain on the cover.                                      
  The wretched man collapsed. He sank his face in his hands, and            
trembled all over.                                                          
  "Where did you get it?" he groaned. "I did not know. I thought I had      
lost it at the hotel."                                                      
  "That is enough," said Hopkins, sternly. "Whatever else you have          
to say, you must say in court. You will walk down with me now to the        
police-station. Well, Mr. Holmes, I am very much obliged to you and to      
your friend for coming down to help me. As it turns out your                
presence was unnecessary, and I would have brought the case to this         
successful issue without you, but, none the less, I am grateful. Rooms      
have been reserved for you at the Brambletye Hotel, so we can all walk      
down to the village together."                                              
  "Well, Watson, what do you think of it?" asked Holmes, as we              
travelled back next morning.                                                
  "I can see that you are not satisfied."                                   
  "Oh, yes, my dear Watson, I am perfectly satisfied. At the same           
time, Stanley Hopkins's methods do not commend themselves to me. I          
am disappointed in Stanley Hopkins. I had hoped for better things from      
him. One should always look for a possible alternative, and provide         
against it. It is the first rule of criminal investigation."                
  "What, then, is the alternative?"                                         
  "The line of investigation which I have myself been pursuing. It may      
give us nothing. I cannot tell. But at least I shall follow it to           
the end."                                                                   
  Several letters were waiting for Holmes at Baker Street. He snatched      
one of them up, opened it, and burst out into a triumphant chuckle          
of laughter.                                                                
  "Excellent, Watson! The alternative develops. Have you telegraph          
forms? Just write a couple of messages for me: 'Sumner, Shipping            
Agent, Ratcliff Highway. Send three men on, to arrive ten to-morrow         
morning.- Basil.' That's my name in those parts. The other is:              
'Inspector Stanley Hopkins, 46 Lord Street, Brixton. Come breakfast         
to-morrow at nine-thirty. Important. Wire if unable to come.- Sherlock      
Holmes.' There, Watson, this infernal case has haunted me for ten           
days. I hereby banish it completely from my presence. To-morrow, I          
trust that we shall hear the last of it forever."                           
  Sharp at the hour named Inspector Stanley Hopkins appeared, and we        
sat down together to the excellent breakfast which Mrs. Hudson had          
prepared. The young detective was in high spirits at his success.           
  "You really think that your solution must be correct?" asked Holmes.      
  "I could not imagine a more complete case."                               
  "It did not seem to me conclusive."                                       
  "You astonish me, Mr. Holmes. What more could one ask for?"               
  "Does your explanation cover every point?"                                
  "Undoubtedly. I find that young Neligan arrived at the Brambletye         
Hotel on the very day of the crime. He came on the pretence of playing      
golf. His room was on the ground-floor, and he could get out when he        
liked. That very night he went down to Woodman's Lee, saw Peter             
Carey at the hut, quarrelled with him, and killed him with the              
harpoon. Then, horrified by what he had done, he fled out of the            
hut, dropping the notebook which he had brought with him in order to        
question Peter Carey about these different securities. You may have         
observed that some of them were marked with ticks, and the others- the      
great majority- were not. Those which are ticked have been traced on        
the London market, but the others, presumably, were still in the            
possession of Carey, and young Neligan, according to his own                
account, was anxious to recover them in order to do the right thing by      
his father's creditors. After his flight he did not dare to approach        
the hut again for some time, but at last he forced himself to do so in      
order to obtain the information which he needed. Surely that is all         
simple and obvious?"                                                        
  Holmes smiled and shook his head.                                         
 "It seems to me to have only one drawback, Hopkins, and that is            
that it is intrinsically impossible. Have you tried to drive a harpoon      
through a body? No? Tut, tut my dear sir, you must really pay               
attention to these details. My friend Watson could tell you that I          
spent a whole morning in that exercise. It is no easy matter, and           
requires a strong and practised arm. But this blow was delivered            
with such violence that the head of the weapon sank deep into the           
wall. Do you imagine that this anaemic youth was capable of so              
frightful an assault? Is he the man who hobnobbed in rum and water          
with Black Peter in the dead of the night? Was it his profile that was      
seen on the blind two nights before? No, no, Hopkins, it is another         
and more formidable person for whom we must seek."                          
  The detective's face had grown longer and longer during Holmes's          
speech. His hopes and his ambitions were all crumbling about him.           
But he would not abandon his position without a struggle.                   
  "You can't deny that Neligan was present that night, Mr. Holmes. The      
book will prove that. I fancy that I have evidence enough to satisfy a      
jury, even if you are able to pick a hole in it. Besides, Mr.               
Holmes, I have laid my hand upon my man. As to this terrible person of      
yours, where is he?"                                                        
  "I rather fancy that he is on the stair," said Holmes, serenely.          
"I think, Watson, that you would do well to put that revolver where         
you can reach it." He rose and laid a written paper upon a side-table.      
"Now we are ready," said he.                                                
  There had been some talking in gruff voices outside, and now Mrs.         
Hudson opened the door to say that there were three men inquiring           
for Captain Basil.                                                          
  "Show them in one by one," said Holmes.                                   
  "The first who entered was a little Ribston pippin of a man, with         
ruddy cheeks and fluffy white side-whiskers. Holmes had drawn a letter      
from his pocket.                                                            
  "What name?" he asked.                                                    
  "James Lancaster."                                                        
  "I am sorry, Lancaster, but the berth is full. Here is half a             
sovereign for your trouble. Just step into this room and wait there         
for a few minutes."                                                         
  The second man was a long, dried-up creature, with lank hair and          
sallow cheeks. His name was Hugh Pattins. He also received his              
dismissal, his half-sovereign, and the order to wait.                       
  The third applicant was a man of remarkable appearance. A fierce          
bull-dog face was framed in a tangle of hair and beard, and two             
bold, dark eyes gleamed behind the cover of thick, tufted, overhung         
eyebrows. He saluted and stood sailor-fashion, turning his cap round        
in his hands.                                                               
  "Your name?" asked Holmes.                                                
  "Patrick Cairns."                                                         
  "Harpooner?"                                                              
  "Yes, sir. Twenty-six voyages."                                           
  "Dundee, I suppose?"                                                      
  "Yes, sir."                                                               
  "And ready to start with an exploring ship?"                              
  "Yes, sir."                                                               
  "What wages?"                                                             
  "Eight pounds a month."                                                   
  "Could you start at once?"                                                
  "As soon as I get my kit."                                                
  "Have you your papers?"                                                   
  "Yes, sir." He took a sheaf of worn and greasy forms from his             
pocket. Holmes glanced over them and returned them.                         
  "You are just the man I want," said he. "Here's the agreement on the      
sidetable. If you sign it the whole matter will be settled."                
  The seaman lurched across the room and took up the pen.                   
  "Shall I sign here?" he asked, stooping over the table.                   
  Holmes leaned over his shoulder and passed both hands over his neck.      
  "This will do," said he.                                                  
  I heard a click of steel and a bellow like an enraged bull. The next      
instant Holmes and the seaman were rolling on the ground together.          
He was a man of such gigantic strength that, even with the handcuffs        
which Holmes had so deftly fastened upon his wrists, he would have          
very quickly overpowered my friend had Hopkins and I not rushed to his      
rescue. Only when I pressed the cold muzzle of the revolver to his          
temple did he at last understand that resistance was vain. We lashed        
his ankles with cord, and rose breathless from the struggle.                
  "I must really apologize, Hopkins," said Sherlock Holmes. "I fear         
that the scrambled eggs are cold. However, you will enjoy the rest          
of your breakfast all the better, will you not, for the thought that        
you have brought your case to a triumphant conclusion."                     
  Stanley Hopkins was speechless with amazement.                            
  "I don't know what to say, Mr. Holmes," he blurted out at last, with      
a very red face. "It seems to me that I have been making a fool of          
myself from the beginning. I understand now, what I should never            
have forgotten, that I am the pupil and you are the master. Even now I      
see what you have done, but I don't know how you did it or what it          
signifies."                                                                 
  "Well, well," said Holmes, good-humouredly. "We all learn by              
experience, and your lesson this time is that you should never lose         
sight of the alternative. You were so absorbed in young Neligan that        
you could not spare a thought to Patrick Cairns, the true murderer          
of Peter Carey."                                                            
  The hoarse voice of the seaman broke in on our conversation.              
  "See here, mister," said he, "I make no complaint of being                
man-handled in this fashion, but I would have you call things by their      
right names. You say I murdered Peter Carey, I say I killed Peter           
Carey, and there's all the difference. Maybe you don't believe what         
I say. Maybe you think I am just slinging you a yarn."                      
  "Not at all," said Holmes. "Let us hear what you have to say."            
  "It's soon told, and, by the Lord, every word of it is truth. I knew      
Black Peter, and when he pulled out his knife I whipped a harpoon           
through him sharp, for I knew that it was him or me. That's how he          
died. You can call it murder. Anyhow, I'd as soon die with a rope           
round my neck as with Black Peter's knife in my heart."                     
  "How came you there?" asked Holmes.                                       
  "I'll tell it you from the beginning. just sit me up a little, so as      
I can speak easy. It was in '83 that it happened- August of that year.      
Peter Carey was master of the Sea Unicorn, and I was spare                  
harpooner. We were coming out of the ice-pack on our way home, with         
head winds and a week's southerly gale, when we picked up a little          
craft that had been blown north. There was one man on her- a landsman.      
The crew had thought she would founder and had made for the                 
Norwegian coast in the dinghy. I guess they were all drowned. Well, we      
took him on board, this man, and he and the skipper had some long           
talks in the cabin. All the baggage we took off with him was one tin        
box. So far as I know, the man's name was never mentioned, and on           
the second night he disappeared as if he had never been. It was             
given out that he had either thrown himself overboard or fallen             
overboard in the heavy weather that we were having. Only one man            
knew what had happened to him, and that was me, for, with my own eyes,      
I saw the skipper tip up his heels and put him over the rail in the         
middle watch of a dark night, two days before we sighted the                
Shetland Lights.                                                            
 "Well, I kept my knowledge to myself, and waited to see what would         
come of it When we got back to Scotland it was easily hushed up, and        
nobody asked any questions. A stranger died by accident and it was          
nobody's business to inquire. Shortly after Peter Carey gave up the         
sea, and it was long years before I could find where he was. I guessed      
that he had done the deed for the sake of what was in that tin box,         
and that he could afford now to pay me well for keeping my mouth shut.      
 "I found out where he was through a sailor man that had met him in         
London, and down I went to squeeze him. The first night he was              
reasonable enough, and was ready to give me what would make me free of      
the sea for life. We were to fix it all two nights later. When I came,      
I found him three parts drunk and in a vile temper. We sat down and we      
drank and we yarned about old times, but the more he drank the less         
I liked the look on his face. I spotted that harpoon upon the wall,         
and I thought I might need it before I was through. Then at last he         
broke out at me, spitting and cursing, with murder in his eyes and a        
great clasp-knife in his hand. He had not time to get it from the           
sheath before I had the harpoon through him. Heavens! what a yell he        
gave! and his face gets between me and my sleep. I stood there, with        
his blood splashing round me, and I waited for a bit, but all was           
quiet, so I took heart once more. I looked round, and there was the         
tin box on the shelf. I had as much right to it as Peter Carey,             
anyhow, so I took it with me and left the hut. Like a fool I left my        
baccy-pouch upon the table.                                                 
  "Now I'll tell you the queerest part of the whole story. I had            
hardly got outside the hut when I heard someone coming, and I hid           
among the bushes. A man came slinking along, went into the hut, gave a      
cry as if he had seen a ghost, and legged it as hard as he could run        
until he was out of sight. Who he was or what he wanted is more than I      
can tell. For my part I walked ten miles, got a train at Tunbridge          
Wells, and so reached London, and no one the wiser.                         
  "Well, when I came to examine the box I found there was no money          
in it, and nothing but papers that I would not dare to sell. I had          
lost my hold on Black Peter and was stranded in London without a            
shilling. There was only my trade left. I saw these advertisements          
about harpooners, and high wages, so I went to the shipping agents,         
and they sent me here. That's all I know, and I say again that if I         
killed Black Peter, the law should give me thanks, for I saved them         
the rice of a hempen rope."                                                 
  "A very clear statement said Holmes, rising and lighting his pipe.        
"I think, Hopkins, that you should lose no time in conveying your           
prisoner to a place of safety. This room is not well adapted for a          
cell, and Mr. Patrick Cairns occupies too large a proportion of our         
carpet."                                                                    
  "Mr. Holmes," said Hopkins, "I do not know how to express my              
gratitude. Even now I do not understand how you attained this result."      
  "Simply by having the good fortune to get the right clue from the         
beginning. It is very possible if I had known about this notebook it        
might have led away my thoughts, as it did yours. But all I heard           
pointed in the one direction. The amazing strength, the skill in the        
use of the harpoon, the rum and water, the sealskin tobacco-pouch with      
the coarse tobacco-all these pointed to a seaman, and one who had been      
a whaler. I was convinced that the initials 'P.C.' upon the pouch were      
a coincidence, and not those of Peter Carey, since he seldom smoked,        
and no pipe was found in his cabin. You remember that I asked               
whether whisky and brandy were in the cabin. You said they were. How        
many landsmen are there who would drink rum when they could get             
these other spirits? Yes, I was certain it was a seaman."                   
  "And how did you find him?"                                               
  "My dear sir, the problem had become a very simple one. If it were a      
seaman, it could only be a seaman who had been with him on the Sea          
Unicorn. So far as I could learn he had sailed in no other ship. I          
spent three days in wiring to Dundee, and at the end of that time I         
had ascertained the names of the crew of the Sea Unicorn in 1883. When      
I found Patrick Cairns among the harpooners, my research was nearing        
its end. I argued that the man was probably in London, and that he          
would desire to leave the country for a time. I therefore spent some        
days in the East End, devised an Arctic expedition, put forth tempting      
terms for harpooners who would serve under Captain Basil- and behold        
the result!"                                                                
  "Wonderful!" cried Hopkins. "Wonderful!"                                  
  "You must obtain the release of young Neligan as soon as                  
possible," said Holmes. "I confess that I think you owe him some            
apology. The tin box must be returned to him, but, of course, the           
securities which Peter Carey has sold are lost forever. There's the         
cab, Hopkins, and you can remove your man. If you want me for the           
trial, my address and that of Watson will be somewhere in Norway- I'll      
send particulars later."                                                    

                    -THE END-                                     


    

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