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The Adventure of the Dying Detective - Arthur Connan Doyle

                                                                            
                                      1913                                  
                                                                            
                                SHERLOCK HOLMES                             
                                                                            
                      THE ADVENTURE OF THE DYING DETECTIVE                  
                                                                            
                           by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle                        
                                                                            
                                                                            
                                                                            
                                                                            
  Mrs. Hudson, the landlady of Sherlock Holmes, was a long-suffering        
woman. Not only was her first-floor flat invaded at all hours by            
throngs of singular and often undesirable characters but her                
remarkable lodger showed an eccentricity and irregularity in his            
life which must have sorely tried her patience. His incredible              
untidiness, his addiction to music at strange hours, his occasional         
revolver practice within doors, his weird and often malodorous              
scientific experiments, and the atmosphere of violence and danger           
which hung around him made him the very worst tenant in London. On the      
other hand, his payments were princely. I have no doubt that the house      
might have been purchased at the price which Holmes paid for his rooms      
during the years that I was with him.                                       
  The landlady stood in the deepest awe of him and never dared to           
interfere with him, however outrageous his proceedings might seem. She      
was fond of him, too, for he had a remarkable gentleness and                
courtesy in his dealings with women. He disliked and distrusted the         
sex, but he was always a chivalrous opponent. Knowing how genuine           
was her regard for him, I listened earnestly to her story when she          
came to my rooms in the second year of my married life and told me          
of the sad condition to which my poor friend was reduced.                   
  "He's dying, Dr. Watson," said she. "For three days he has been           
sinking, and I doubt if he will last the day. He would not let me           
get a doctor. This morning when I saw his bones sticking out of his         
face and his great bright eyes looking at me I could stand no more          
of it. 'With your leave or without it, Mr. Holmes, I am going for a         
doctor this very hour,' said I. 'Let it be Watson, then,' said he. I        
wouldn't waste an hour in coming to him, sir, or you may not see him        
alive."                                                                     
  I was horrified for I had heard nothing of his illness. I need not        
say that I rushed for my coat and my hat. As we drove back I asked for      
the details.                                                                
  "There is little I can tell you, sir. He has been working at a            
case down at Rotherhithe, in an alley near the river, and he has            
brought this illness back with him. He took to his bed on Wednesday         
afternoon and has never moved since. For these three days neither food      
nor drink has passed his lips."                                             
  "Good God! Why did you not call in a doctor?"                             
  "He wouldn't have it, sir. You know how masterful he is. I didn't         
dare to disobey him. But he's not long for this world, as you'll see        
for yourself the moment that you set eyes on him."                          
  He was indeed a deplorable spectacle. In the dim light of a foggy         
November day the sick room was a gloomy spot, but it was that gaunt,        
wasted face staring at me from the bed which sent a chill to my heart.      
His eyes had the brightness of fever, there was a hectic flush upon         
either cheek, and dark crusts clung to his lips; the thin hands upon        
the coverlet twitched incessantly, his voice was croaking and               
spasmodic. He lay listlessly as I entered the room, but the sight of        
me brought a gleam of recognition to his eyes.                              
  "Well, Watson, we seem to have fallen upon evil days," said he in         
a feeble voice, but with something of his old carelessness of manner.       
  "My dear fellow!" I cried, approaching him.                               
  "Stand back! Stand right back!" said he with the sharp imperiousness      
which I had associated only with moments of crisis. "If you approach        
me, Watson, I shall order you out of the house."                            
  "But why?"                                                                
  "Because it is my desire. Is that not enough?"                            
  Yes, Mrs. Hudson was right. He was more masterful than ever. It           
was pitiful, however, to see his exhaustion.                                
  "I only wished to help," I explained.                                     
  "Exactly! You will help best by doing what you are told."                 
  "Certainly, Holmes."                                                      
  He relaxed the austerity of his manner.                                   
  "You are not angry?" he asked, gasping for breath.                        
  Poor devil, how could I be angry when I saw him lying in such a           
plight before me?                                                           
  "It's for your own sake, Watson," he croaked.                             
  "For my sake?"                                                            
  "I know what is the matter with me. It is a coolie disease from           
Sumatra- a thing that the Dutch know more about than we, though they        
have made little of it up to date. One thing only is certain. It is         
infallibly deadly, and it is horribly contagious."                          
  He spoke now with a feverish energy, the long hands twitching and         
jerking as he motioned me away.                                             
  "Contagious by touch, Watson- that's it, by touch. Keep your              
distance and all is well."                                                  
  "Good heavens, Holmes! Do you suppose that such a consideration           
weighs with me for an instant? It would not affect me in the case of a      
stranger. Do you imagine it would prevent me from doing my duty to          
so old a friend?"                                                           
  Again I advanced, but he repulsed me with a look of furious anger.        
  "If you will stand there I will talk. If you do not you must leave        
the room."                                                                  
  I have so deep a respect for the extraordinary qualities of Holmes        
that I have always deferred to his wishes, even when I least                
understood them. But now all my professional instincts were aroused.        
Let him be my master elsewhere, I at least was his in a sick room.          
  "Holmes," said I, "you are not yourself. A sick man is but a              
child, and so I will treat you. Whether you like it or not, I will          
examine your symptoms and treat you for them."                              
  He looked at me with venomous eyes.                                       
  "If I am to have a doctor whether I will or not, let me at least          
have someone in whom I have confidence," said he.                           
  "Then you have none in me?"                                               
  "In your friendship, certainly. But facts are facts, Watson, and,         
after all, you are only a general practitioner with very limited            
experience and mediocre qualifications. It is painful to have to say        
these things, but you leave me no choice."                                  
  I was bitterly hurt.                                                      
  "Such a remark is unworthy of you, Holmes. It shows me very               
clearly the state of your own nerves. But if you have no confidence in      
me I would not intrude my services. Let me bring Sir Jasper Meek or         
Penrose Fisher, or any of the best men in London. But someone you must      
have, and that is final. If you think that I am going to stand here         
and see you die without either helping you myself or bringing anyone        
else to help you, then you have mistaken your man."                         
  "You mean well, Watson," said the sick man with something between         
a sob and a groan. "Shall I demonstrate your own ignorance? What do         
you know, pray, of Tapanuli fever? What do you know of the black            
Formosa corruption?"                                                        
  "I have never heard of either."                                           
  "There are many problems of disease, many strange pathological            
possibilities, in the East, Watson." He paused after each sentence          
to collect his failing strength. "I have learned so much during some        
recent researches which have a medico-criminal aspect. It was in the        
course of them that I contracted this complaint. You can do nothing."       
  "Possibly not. But I happen to know that Dr. Ainstree, the                
greatest living authority upon tropical disease, is now in London. All      
remonstrance is useless, Holmes, I am going this instant to fetch           
him." I turned resolutely to the door.                                      
  Never have I had such a shock! In an instant, with a tiger-spring,        
the dying man had intercepted me. I heard the sharp snap of a               
twisted key. The next moment he had staggered back to his bed,              
exhausted and panting after his one tremendous outflame of energy.          
  "You won't take the key from me by force, Watson, I've got you, my        
friend. Here you are, and here you will stay until I will otherwise.        
But I'll humour you." (All this in little gasps, with terrible              
struggles for breath between) "You've only my own good at heart. Of         
course I know that very well. You shall have your way, but give me          
time to get my strength. Not now, Watson, not now. It's four                
o'clock. At six you can go."                                                
  "This is insanity, Holmes."                                               
  "Only two hours, Watson. I promise you will go at six. Are you            
content to wait?"                                                           
  "I seem to have no choice."                                               
  "None in the world, Watson. Thank you, I need no help in arranging        
the clothes. You will please keep your distance. Now, Watson, there is      
one other condition that I would make. You will seek help, not from         
the man you mention, but from the one that I choose."                       
  "By all means."                                                           
  "The first three sensible words that you have uttered since you           
entered this room, Watson. You will find some books over there. I am        
somewhat exhausted; I wonder how a battery feels when it pours              
electricity into a non-conductor? At six, Watson, we resume our             
conversation."                                                              
  But it was destined to be resumed long before that hour, and in           
circumstances which gave me a shock hardly second to that caused by         
his springing to the door. I had stood for some minutes looking at the      
silent figure in the bed. His face was almost covered by the clothes        
and he appeared to be asleep. Then, unable to settle down to                
reading, I walked slowly round the room, examining the pictures of          
celebrated criminals with which every wall was adorned. Finally, in my      
aimless perambulation, I came to the mantelpiece. A litter of pipes,        
tobacco-pouches, syringes, penknives, revolver-cartridges, and other        
debris was scattered over it. In the midst of these was a small             
black and white ivory box with a sliding lid. It was a neat little          
thing, and I had stretched out my hand to examine it more closely           
when-                                                                       
  It was a dreadful cry that he gave- a yell which might have been          
heard down the street. My skin went cold and my hair bristled at            
that horrible scream. As I turned I caught a glimpse of a convulsed         
face and frantic eyes. I stood paralyzed, with the little box in my         
hand.                                                                       
  "Put it down! Down, this instant, Watson- this instant, I say!"           
His head sank back upon the pillow and he gave a deep sigh of relief        
as I replaced the box upon the mantelpiece. "I hate to have my              
things touched, Watson. You know that I hate it. You fidget me              
beyond endurance. You, a doctor- you are enough to drive a patient          
into an asylum. Sit down, man, and let me have my rest!"                    
  The incident left a most unpleasant impression upon my mind. The          
violent and causeless excitement, followed by this brutality of             
speech, so far removed from his usual suavity, showed me how deep           
was the disorganization of his mind. Of all ruins, that of a noble          
mind is the most deplorable. I sat in silent dejection until the            
stipulated time had passed. He seemed to have been watching the             
clock as well as I, for it was hardly six before he began to talk with      
the same feverish animation as before.                                      
  "Now, Watson," said he. "Have you any change in your pocket?"             
  "Yes."                                                                    
  "Any silver?"                                                             
  "A good deal."                                                            
  "How many half-crowns?"                                                   
  "I have five."                                                            
  "Ah, too few! Too few! How very unfortunate, Watson! However, such        
as they are you can put them in your watchpocket. And all the rest          
of your money in your left trouserpocket. Thank you. It will balance        
you so much better like that."                                              
  This was raving insanity. He shuddered, and again made a sound            
between a cough and a sob.                                                  
  "You will now light the gas, Watson, but you will be very careful         
that not for one instant shall it be more than half on. I implore           
you to be careful, Watson. Thank you, that is excellent. No, you            
need not draw the blind. Now you will have the kindness to place            
some letters and papers upon this table within my reach, Thank you.         
Now some of that litter from the mantelpiece. Excellent, Watson! There      
is a sugar-tongs there. Kindly raise that small ivory box with its          
assistance. Place it here among the papers. Good! You can now go and        
fetch Mr. Culverton Smith, of 13 Lower Burke Street."                       
  To tell the truth, my desire to fetch a doctor had somewhat               
weakened, for poor Holmes was so obviously delirious that it seemed         
dangerous to leave him. However, he was as eager now to consult the         
person named as he had been obstinate in refusing.                          
  "I never heard the name," said I.                                         
  "Possibly not, my good Watson. It may surprise you to know that           
the man upon earth who is best versed in this disease is not a medical      
man, but a planter. Mr. Culverton Smith is a well-known resident of         
Sumatra, now visiting London. An outbreak of the disease upon his           
plantation, which was distant from medical aid, caused him to study it      
himself, with some rather far-reaching consequences. He is a very           
methodical person, and I did not desire you to start before six,            
because I was well aware that you would not find him in his study.          
If you could persuade him to come here and give us the benefit of           
his unique experience of this disease, the investigation of which           
has been his dearest hobby, I cannot doubt that he could help me."          
  I give Holmes's remarks as a consecutive whole and will not               
attempt to indicate how they were interrupted by gaspings for breath        
and those clutchings of his hands which indicated the pain from             
which he was suffering. His appearance had changed for the worse            
during the few hours that I had been with him. Those hectic spots were      
more pronounced, the eyes shone more brightly out of darker hollows,        
and a cold sweat glimmered upon his brow. He still retained,                
however, the jaunty gallantry of his speech. To the last gasp he would      
always be the master.                                                       
  "You will tell him exactly how you have left me," said he. "You will      
convey the very impression which is in your own mind- a dying man- a        
dying and delirious man. Indeed, I cannot think why the whole bed of        
the ocean is not one solid mass of oysters, so prolific the                 
creatures seem. Ah, I am wandering! Strange how the brain controls the      
brain! What was I saying, Watson?"                                          
  "My directions for Mr. Culverton Smith."                                  
  "Ah, yes, I remember. My life depends upon it. Plead with him,            
Watson. There is no good feeling between us. His nephew, Watson- I had      
suspicions of foul play and I allowed him to see it. The boy died           
horribly. He has a grudge against me. You will soften him, Watson. Beg      
him, pray him, get him here by any means. He can save me- only he!"         
  "I will bring him in a cab, if I have to carry him down to it."           
  "You will do nothing of the sort. You will persuade him to come. And      
then you will return in front of him. Make any excuse so as not to          
come with him. Don't forget, Watson. You won't fail me. You never           
did fail me. No doubt there are natural enemies which limit the             
increase of the creatures. You and I, Watson, we have done our part.        
Shall the world, then, be overrun by oysters? No, no; horrible! You'll      
convey all that is in your mind."                                           
  I left him full of the image of this magnificent intellect                
babbling like a foolish child. He had handed me the key, and with a         
happy thought I took it with me lest he should lock himself in. Mrs.        
Hudson was waiting, trembling and weeping, in the passage. Behind me        
as I passed from the flat I heard Holmes's high, thin voice in some         
delirious chant. Below, as I stood whistling for a cab, a man came          
on me through the fog.                                                      
  "How is Mr. Holmes, sir?" he asked.                                       
  It was an old acquaintance, Inspector Morton, of Scotland Yard,           
dressed in unofficial tweeds.                                               
  "He is very ill," I answered.                                             
  He looked at me in a most singular fashion. Had it not been too           
fiendish, I could have imagined that the gleam of the fanlight              
showed exultation in his face.                                              
  "I heard some rumour of it," said he.                                     
  The cab had driven up, and I left him.                                    
  Lower Burke Street proved to be a line of fine houses lying in the        
vague borderland between Notting Hill and Kensington. The particular        
one at which my cabman pulled up had an air of smug and demure              
respectability in its old-fashioned iron railings, its massive              
folding-door, and its shining brasswork. All was in keeping with, a         
solemn butler who appeared framed in the pink radiance of a tinted          
electric light behind him.                                                  
  "Yes, Mr. Culverton Smith is in, Dr. Watson! Very good, sir, I            
will take up your card."                                                    
  My humble name and title did not appear to impress Mr. Culverton          
Smith. Through the half-open door I heard a high, petulant,                 
penetrating voice.                                                          
  "Who is this person? What does he want? Dear me, Staples, how             
often have I said that I am, not to be disturbed in my hours of             
study?"                                                                     
  There came a gentle flow of soothing explanation from the butler.         
  "Well, I won't see him, Staples. I can't have my work interrupted         
like this. I am not at home. Say so. tell him to come in the morning        
if he really must see me."                                                  
  Again the gentle murmur.                                                  
  "Well, well, give him that message. He can come in the morning, or        
he can stay away. My work must not be hindered."                            
  I thought of Holmes tossing upon his bed of sickness and counting         
the minutes, perhaps, until I could bring help to him. It was not a         
time to stand upon ceremony. His life depended upon my promptness.          
Before the apologetic butler had delivered his message I had pushed         
past him and was in the room.                                               
  With a shrill cry of anger a man rose from a reclining chair              
beside the fire. I saw a great yellow face, coarse-grained and greasy,      
with heavy, double-chin, and two sullen, menacing gray eyes which           
glared at me from under tufted and sandy brows. A high bald head had a      
small velvet smoking-cap poised coquettishly upon one side of its pink      
curve. The skull was of enormous capacity, and yet as I looked down         
I saw to my amazement that the figure of the man was small and              
frail, twisted in the shoulders and back like one who has suffered          
from rickets in his childhood.                                              
  "What's this?" he cried in a high, screaming voice. "What is the          
meaning of this intrusion? Didn't I send you word that I would see you      
to-morrow morning?"                                                         
  "I am sorry," said I, "but the matter cannot be delayed. Mr.              
Sherlock Holmes-"                                                           
  The mention of my friend's name had an extraordinary effect upon the      
little man. The look of anger passed in an instant from his face.           
His features became tense and alert.                                        
  "Have you come from Holmes?" he asked.                                    
  "I have just left him."                                                   
  "What about Holmes? How is he?"                                           
  "He is desperately ill. That is why I have come."                         
  The man motioned me to a chair, and turned to resume his own. As          
he did so I caught a glimpse of his face in the mirror over the             
mantelpiece. I could have sworn that it was set in a malicious and          
abominable smile. Yet I persuaded myself that it must have been some        
nervous contraction which I had surprised, for he turned to me an           
instant later with genuine concern upon his features.                       
  "I am sorry to hear this," said he. "I only know Mr. Holmes               
through some business dealings which we have had, but I have every          
respect for his talents and his character. He is an amateur of              
crime, as I am of disease. For him the villain, for me the microbe.         
There are my prisons," he continued, pointing to a row of bottles           
and jars which stood upon a side table. "Among those gelatine               
cultivations some of the very worst offenders in the world are now          
doing time."                                                                
  "It was on account of your special knowledge that Mr. Holmes desired      
to see you. He has a high opinion of you and thought that you were the      
one man in London who could help him."                                      
  The little man started, and the jaunty smoking-cap slid to the            
floor.                                                                      
  "Why?" he asked. "Why should Mr. Holmes think that I could help           
him in his trouble?"                                                        
  "Because of your knowledge of Eastern diseases."                          
  "But why should he think that this disease which he has contracted        
is Eastern?"                                                                
  "Because, in some professional inquiry, he has been working among         
Chinese sailors down in the docks."                                         
  Mr. Culverton Smith smiled pleasantly and picked up his smoking-cap.      
  "Oh, that's it- is it?" said he. "I trust the matter is not so grave      
as you suppose. How long has he been ill?"                                  
  "About three days."                                                       
  "Is he delirious?"                                                        
  "Occasionally."                                                           
  "Tut, tut! This sounds serious. It would be inhuman not to answer         
his call. I very much resent any interruption to my work, Dr.               
Watson, but this case is certainly exceptional. I will come with you        
at once."                                                                   
  I remembered Holmes's injunction.                                         
  "I have another appointment," said I.                                     
  "Very good. I will go alone. I have a note of Mr. Holmes's                
address. You can rely upon my being there within half an hour at            
most."                                                                      
  It was with a sinking heart that I reentered Holmes's bedroom. For        
all that I knew the worst might have happened in my absence. To my          
enormous relief, he had improved greatly in the interval. His               
appearance was as ghastly as ever, but all trace of delirium had            
left him and he spoke in a feeble voice, it is true, but with even          
more than his usual crispness and lucidity.                                 
  "Well, did you see him, Watson?"                                          
  "Yes; he is coming."                                                      
  "Admirable, Watson! Admirable! You are the best of messengers."           
  "He wished to return with me."                                            
  "That would never do, Watson. That would be obviously impossible.         
Did he ask what ailed me?"                                                  
  "I told him about the Chinese in the East End."                           
  "Exactly! Well, Watson, you have done all that a good friend              
could. You can now disappear from the scene."                               
  "I must wait and hear his opinion, Holmes."                               
  "Of course you must. But I have reasons to suppose that this opinion      
would be very much more frank and valuable if he imagines that we           
are alone. There is just room behind the head of my bed, Watson."           
  "My dear Holmes!"                                                         
  "I fear there is no alternative, Watson. The room does not lend           
itself to concealment, which is as well, as it is the less likely to        
arouse suspicion. But just there, Watson, I fancy that it could be          
done." Suddenly he sat up with a rigid intentness upon his haggard          
face. "There are the wheels, Watson. Quick, man, if you love me! And        
don't budge, whatever happens- whatever happens, do you hear? Don't         
speak! Don't move! Just listen with all your ears." Then in an instant      
his sudden access of strength departed, and his masterful,                  
purposeful talk droned away into the low, vague murmurings of a             
semi-delirious man.                                                         
  From the hiding-place into which I had been so swiftly hustled I          
heard the footfalls upon the stair, with the opening and the closing        
of the bedroom door. "Then, to my surprise, there came a long silence,      
broken only by the heavy breathings and gaspings of the sick man. I         
could imagine that our visitor was standing by the bedside and looking      
down at the sufferer. At last that strange hush was broken.                 
  "Holmes!" he cried. "Holmes!" in the insistent tone of one who            
awakens a sleeper. "Can't you hear me, Holmes?" There was a                 
rustling, as if he had shaken the sick man roughly by the shoulder.         
  "Is that you, Mr. Smith?" Holmes whispered. "I hardly dared hope          
that you would come."                                                       
  The other laughed.                                                        
  "I should imagine not," he said. "And yet, you see, I am here. Coals      
of fire, Holmes- coals of fire!"                                            
  "It is very good of you- very noble of you. I appreciate your             
special knowledge."                                                         
  Our visitor sniggered, "You do. You are, fortunately, the only man        
in London who does. Do you know what is the matter with you?"               
  "The same," said Holmes.                                                  
  "Ah! You recognize the symptoms?"                                         
  "Only too well."                                                          
  "Well, I shouldn't be surprised, Holmes. I shouldn't be surprised if      
it were the same. A bad lookout for you if it is. Poor Victor was a         
dead man on the fourth day- a strong, hearty young fellow. It was           
certainly, as you said, very surprising that he should have contracted      
an out-of-the-way Asiatic disease in the heart of London- a disease,        
too, of which I had made such a very special study. Singular                
coincidence, Holmes. Very smart of you to notice it, but rather             
uncharitable to suggest that it was cause and effect."                      
  "I knew that you did it."                                                 
  "Oh, you did, did you? Well, you couldn't prove it, anyhow. But what      
do you think of yourself spreading reports about me like that, and          
then crawling to me for help the moment you are in trouble? What            
sort of a game is that- eh?"                                                
  I heard the rasping, laboured breathing of the sick man. "Give me         
the water!" he gasped.                                                      
  "You're precious near your end, my friend, but I don't want you to        
go till I have had a word with you. That's why I give you water.            
There, don't slop it about! That's right. Can you understand what I         
say?"                                                                       
  Holmes groaned.                                                           
  "Do what you can for me. Let bygones be bygones," he whispered.           
"I'll put the words out of my head- I swear I will. Only cure me,           
and I'll forget it."                                                        
  "Forget what?"                                                            
  "Well, about Victor Savage's death. You as good as admitted just now      
that you had done it. I'll forget it."                                      
  "You can forget it or remember it, just as you like. I don't see you      
in the witnessbox. Quite another shaped box, my good Holmes, I              
assure you. It matters nothing to me that you should know how my            
nephew died. It's not him we are talking about. It's you."                  
  "Yes, yes."                                                               
  "The fellow who came for me- I've forgotten his name- said that           
you contracted it down in the East End among the sailors."                  
  "I could only account for it so."                                         
  "You are proud of your brains, Holmes, are you not? Think yourself        
smart, don't you? You came across someone who was smarter this time.        
Now cast your mind back, Holmes. Can you think of no other way you          
could have got this thing?"                                                 
  "I can't think. My mind is gone. For heaven's sake help me!"              
  "Yes, I will help you. I'll help you to understand just where you         
are and how you got there. I'd like you to know before you die."            
  "Give me something to ease my pain."                                      
  "Painful, is it? Yes, the coolies used to do some squealing               
towards the end. Takes you as cramp, I fancy."                              
  "Yes, yes; it is cramp."                                                  
  "Well, you can hear what I say, anyhow. Listen now! Can you remember      
any unusual incident in your life just about the time your symptoms         
began?"                                                                     
  "No, no; nothing."                                                        
  "Think again."                                                            
  "I'm too ill to think."                                                   
  "Well, then, I'll help you. Did anything come by post?"                   
  "By post?"                                                                
  "A box by chance?"                                                        
  "I'm fainting- I'm gone!"                                                 
  "Listen, Holmes!" There was a sound as if he was shaking the dying        
man, and it was all that I could do to hold myself quiet in my              
hiding-place. "You must hear me. You shall hear me. Do you remember         
a box- an ivory box? It came on Wednesday. You opened it- do you            
remember?"                                                                  
  "Yes, yes, I opened it. There was a sharp spring inside it. Some          
joke-"                                                                      
  "It was no joke, as you will find to your cost. You fool, you             
would have it and you have got it. Who asked you to cross my path?          
If you had left me alone I would not have hurt you."                        
  "I remember," Holmes gasped. "The spring! It drew blood. This box-        
this on the table."                                                         
  "The very one, by George! And it may as well leave the room in my         
pocket. There goes your last shred of evidence. But you have the truth      
now, Holmes, and you can die with the knowledge that I killed you. You      
knew too much of the fate of Victor Savage, so I have sent you to           
share it. You are very near your end, Holmes. I will sit here and I         
will watch you die."                                                        
  Holmes's voice had sunk to an almost inaudible whisper.                   
  "What is that?" said Smith. "Turn up the gas? Ah, the shadows             
begin to fall, do they? Yes, I will turn it up, that I may see you the      
better." He crossed the room and the light suddenly brightened. "Is         
there any other little service that I can do you, my friend?"               
  "A match and a cigarette."                                                
  I nearly called out in my joy and my amazement. He was speaking in        
his natural voice- a little weak, perhaps, but the very voice I             
knew. There was a long pause, and I felt that Culverton Smith was           
standing in silent amazement looking down at his companion.                 
  "What's the meaning of this?" I heard him say at last in a dry,           
rasping tone.                                                               
  "The best way of successfully acting a part is to be it," said            
Holmes. "I give you my word that for three days I have tasted               
neither food nor drink until you were good enough to pour me out            
that glass of water. But it is the tobacco which I find most                
irksome. Ah, here are some cigarettes." I heard the striking of a           
match. That is very much better. Halloa! halloa! Do I hear the step of      
a friend?"                                                                  
  There were footfalls outside, the door opened, and Inspector              
Morton appeared.                                                            
  "All is in order and this is your man," said Holmes.                      
  The officer gave the usual cautions.                                      
  "I arrest you on the charge of the murder of one Victor Savage,"          
he concluded.                                                               
  "And you might add of the attempted murder of one Sherlock                
Holmes," remarked my friend with a chuckle. "To save an invalid             
trouble, Inspector, Mr. Culverton Smith was good enough to give our         
signal by turning up the gas. By the way, the prisoner has a small box      
in the right-hand pocket of his coat which it would be as well to           
remove. Thank you. I would handle it gingerly if I were you. Put it         
down here. It may play its part in the trial."                              
  There was a sudden rush and a scuffle, followed by the clash of iron      
and a cry of pain.                                                          
  "You'll only get yourself hurt," said the inspector. "Stand still,        
will you?" There was the click of the closing handcuffs.                    
  "A nice trap!" cried the high, snarling voice. "It will bring you         
into the dock, Holmes, not me. He asked me to come here to cure him. I      
was sorry for him and I came. Now he will pretend, no doubt, that I         
have said anything which he may invent which will corroborate his           
insane suspicions. You can lie as you like, Holmes. My word is              
always as good as yours."                                                   
  "Good heavens!" cried Holmes. "I had totally forgotten him. My            
dear Watson, I owe you a thousand apologies. To think that I should         
have overlooked you! I need not introduce you to Mr. Culverton              
Smith, since I understand that you met somewhat earlier in the              
evening. Have you the cab below? I will follow you when I am                
dressed, for I may be of some use at the station.                           
  "I never needed it more," said Holmes as he refreshed himself with a      
glass of claret and some biscuits in the intervals of his toilet.           
"However, as you know, my habits are irregular, and such a feat             
means less to me than to most men. It was very essential that I should      
impress Mrs. Hudson with the reality of my condition, since she was to      
convey it to you, and you in turn to him. You won't be offended,            
Watson? You will realize that among your many talents dissimulation         
finds no place, and that if you had shared my secret you would never        
have been able to impress Smith with the urgent necessity of his            
presence, which was the vital point of the whole scheme. Knowing his        
vindictive nature, I was perfectly certain that he would come to            
look upon his handiwork."                                                   
  "But your appearance, Holmes- your ghastly face?"                         
  "Three days of absolute fast does not improve one's beauty,               
Watson. For the rest, there is nothing which a sponge may not cure.         
With vaseline upon one's forehead, belladonna in one's eyes, rouge          
over the cheek-bones, and crusts of beeswax round one's lips, a very        
satisfying effect can be produced. Malingering is a subject upon which      
I have sometimes thought of writing a monograph. A little occasional        
talk about half-crowns, oysters, or any other extraneous subject            
produces a pleasing effect of delirium."                                    
  "But why would you not let me near you, since there was in truth          
no infection?"                                                              
  "Can you ask, my dear Watson? Do you imagine that I have no               
respect for your medical talents? Could I fancy that your astute            
judgment would pass a dying man who, however weak, had no rise of           
pulse or temperature? At four yards, I could deceive you. If I              
failed to do so, who would bring my Smith within my grasp? No, Watson,      
I would not touch that box. You can just see if you look at it              
sideways where the sharp spring like a viper's tooth emerges as you         
open it. I dare say it was by some such device that poor Savage, who        
stood between this monster and a reversion, was done to death. My           
correspondence, however, is, as you know, a varied one, and I am            
somewhat upon my guard against any packages which reach me. It was          
clear to me, however, that my pretending that he had really                 
succeeded in his design I might surprise a confession. That pretence I      
have carried out with the thoroughness of the true artist. Thank            
you, Watson, you must help me on with my coat. When we have finished        
at the police station I can think that something nutritious at              
Simpson's would not be out of place."                                                                                                                
                                                                          
                            -THE END-  


    

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