His Last Bow





It was nine o'clock at night upon the second of August--the most

terrible August in the history of the world. One might have

thought already that God's curse hung heavy over a degenerate

world, for there was an awesome hush and a feeling of vague

expectancy in the sultry and stagnant air. The sun had long set,

but one blood-red gash like an open wound lay low in the distant

west. Above, the stars were shining brightly, and below, the

lights of the shipping glimmered in the bay. The two famous

Germans stood beside the stone parapet of the garden walk, with

the long, low, heavily gabled house behind them, and they looked

down upon the broad sweep of the beach at the foot of the great

chalk cliff in which Von Bork, like some wandering eagle, had

perched himself four years before. They stood with their heads

close together, talking in low, confidential tones. From below

the two glowing ends of their cigars might have been the

smouldering eyes of some malignant fiend looking down in the

darkness.



A remarkable man this Von Bork--a man who could hardly be matched

among all the devoted agents of the Kaiser. It was his talents

which had first recommended him for the English mission, the most

important mission of all, but since he had taken it over those

talents had become more and more manifest to the half-dozen

people in the world who were really in touch with the truth. One

of these was his present companion, Baron Von Herling, the chief

secretary of the legation, whose huge 100-horse-power Benz car

was blocking the country lane as it waited to waft its owner back

to London.



"So far as I can judge the trend of events, you will probably be

back in Berlin within the week," the secretary was saying. "When

you get there, my dear Von Bork, I think you will be surprised at

the welcome you will receive. I happen to know what is thought

in the highest quarters of your work in this country." He was a

huge man, the secretary, deep, broad, and tall, with a slow,

heavy fashion of speech which had been his main asset in his

political career.



Von Bork laughed.



"They are not very hard to deceive," he remarked. "A more

docile, simple folk could not be imagined."



"I don't know about that," said the other thoughtfully. "They

have strange limits and one must learn to observe them. It is

that surface simplicity of theirs which makes a trap for the

stranger. One's first impression is that they are entirely soft.

Then one comes suddenly upon something very hard, and you know

that you have reached the limit and must adapt yourself to the

fact. They have, for example, their insular conventions which

simply MUST be observed."



"Meaning 'good form' and that sort of thing?" Von Bork sighed as

one who had suffered much.



"Meaning British prejudice in all its queer manifestations. As

an example I may quote one of my own worst blunders--I can afford

to talk of my blunders, for you know my work well enough to be

aware of my successes. It was on my first arrival. I was

invited to a week-end gathering at the country house of a cabinet

minister. The conversation was amazingly indiscreet."



Von Bork nodded. "I've been there," said he dryly.



"Exactly. Well, I naturally sent a resume of the information to

Berlin. Unfortunately our good chancellor is a little heavy-

handed in these matters, and he transmitted a remark which showed

that he was aware of what had been said. This, of course, took

the trail straight up to me. You've no idea the harm that it did

me. There was nothing soft about our British hosts on that

occasion, I can assure you. I was two years living it down. Now

you, with this sporting pose of yours--"



"No, no, don't call it a pose. A pose is an artificial thing.

This is quite natural. I am a born sportsman. I enjoy it."



"Well, that makes it the more effective. You yacht against them,

you hunt with them, you play polo, you match them in every game,

your four-in-hand takes the prize at Olympia. I have even heard

that you go the length of boxing with the young officers. What

is the result? Nobody takes you seriously. You are a 'good old

sport' 'quite a decent fellow for a German,' a hard-drinking,

night-club, knock-about-town, devil-may-care young fellow. And

all the time this quiet country house of yours is the centre of

half the mischief in England, and the sporting squire the most

astute secret-service man in Europe. Genius, my dear Von Bork--

genius!"



"You flatter me, Baron. But certainly I may claim my four years

in this country have not been unproductive. I've never shown you

my little store. Would you mind stepping in for a moment?"



The door of the study opened straight on to the terrace. Von

Bork pushed it back, and, leading the way, he clicked the switch

of the electric light. He then closed the door behind the bulky

form which followed him and carefully adjusted the heavy curtain

over the latticed window. Only when all these precautions had

been taken and tested did he turn his sunburned aquiline face to

his guest.



"Some of my papers have gone," said he. "When my wife and the

household left yesterday for Flushing they took the less

important with them. I must, of course, claim the protection of

the embassy for the others."



"Your name has already been files as one of the personal suite.

There will be no difficulties for you or your baggage. Of

course, it is just possible that we may not have to go. England

may leave France to her fate. We are sure that there is no

binding treaty between them."



"And Belgium?"



"Yes, and Belgium, too."



Von Bork shook his head. "I don't see how that could be. There

is a definite treaty there. She could never recover from such a

humiliation."



"She would at least have peace for the moment."



"But her honor?"



"Tut, my dear sir, we live in a utilitarian age. Honour is a

mediaeval conception. Besides England is not ready. It is an

inconceivable thing, but even our special war tax of fifty

million, which one would think made our purpose as clear as if we

had advertised it on the front page of the Times, has not roused

these people from their slumbers. Here and there one hears a

question. It is my business to find an answer. Here and there

also there is an irritation. It is my business to soothe it.

But I can assure you that so far as the essentials go--the

storage of munitions, the preparation for submarine attack, the

arrangements for making high explosives--nothing is prepared.

How, then, can England come in, especially when we have stirred

he up such a devil's brew of Irish civil war, window-breaking

Furies, and God knows what to keep her thoughts at home."



"She must think of her future."



"Ah, that is another matter. I fancy that in the future we have

our own very definite plans about England, and that your

information will be very vital to us. It is to-day or to-morrow

with Mr. John Bull. If he prefers to-day we are perfectly ready.

If it is to-morrow we shall be more ready still. I should think

they would be wiser to fight with allies than without them, but

that is their own affair. This week is their week of destiny.

But you were speaking of your papers." He sat in the armchair

with the light shining upon his broad bald head, while he puffed

sedately at his cigar.



The large oak-panelled, book-lined room had a curtain hung in the

future corner. When this was drawn it disclosed a large, brass-

bound safe. Von Bork detached a small key from his watch chain,

and after some considerable manipulation of the lock he swung

open the heavy door.



"Look!" said he, standing clear, with a wave of his hand.



The light shone vividly into the opened safe, and the secretary

of the embassy gazed with an absorbed interest at the rows of

stuffed pigeon-holes with which it was furnished. Each pigeon-

hole had its label, and his eyes as he glanced along them read a

long series of such titles as "Fords," "Harbour-defences,"



"Aeroplanes," "Ireland,", "Egypt," "Portsmouth forts," "The

Channel," "Rosythe," and a score of others. Each compartment was

bristling with papers and plans.



"Colossal!" said the secretary. Putting down his cigar he softly

clapped his fat hands.



"And all in four years, Baron. Not such a bad show for the hard-

drinking, hard-riding country squire. But the gem of my

collection is coming and there is the setting all ready for it."

He pointed to a space over which "Naval Signals" was printed.



"But you have a good dossier there already."



"Out of date and waste paper. The Admiralty in some way got the

alarm and every code has been changed. It was a blow, Baron--the

worst setback in my whole campaign. But thanks to my check-book

and the good Altamont all will be well to-night."



The Baron looked at his watch and gave a guttural exclamation of

disappointment.



"Well, I really can wait no longer. You can imagine that things

are moving at present in Carlton Terrace and that we have all to

be at our posts. I had hoped to be able to bring news of your

great coup. Did Altamont name no hour?"



Von Bork pushed over a telegram.



Will come without fail to-night and bring new sparking plugs.



Altamont.



"Sparking plugs, eh?"



"You see he poses as a motor expert and I keep a full garage. In

our code everything likely to come up is named after some spare

part. If he talks of a radiator it is a battleship, of an oil

pump a cruiser, and so on. Sparking plugs are naval signals."



"From Portsmouth at midday," said the secretary, examining the

superscription. "By the way, what do you give him?"



"Five hundred pounds for this particular job. Of course he has a

salary as well."



"The greedy rouge. They are useful, these traitors, but I grudge

them their blood money."



"I grudge Altamont nothing. He is a wonderful worker. If I pay

him well, at least he delivers the goods, to use his own phrase.

Besides he is not a traitor. I assure you that our most pan-

Germanic Junker is a sucking dove in his feelings towards England

as compared with a real bitter Irish-American."



"Oh, an Irish-American?"



"If you heard him talk you would not doubt it. Sometimes I

assure you I can hardly understand him. He seems to have

declared war on the King's English as well as on the English

king. Must you really go? He may be here any moment."



"No. I'm sorry, but I have already overstayed my time. We shall

expect you early to-morrow, and when you get that signal book

through the little door on the Duke of York's steps you can put a

triumphant finis to your record in England. What! Tokay!" He

indicated a heavily sealed dust-covered bottle which stood with

two high glasses upon a salver.



"May I offer you a glass before your journey?"



"No, thanks. But it looks like revelry."



"Altamont has a nice taste in wines, and he took a fancy to my

Tokay. He is a touchy fellow and needs humouring in small

things. I have to study him, I assure you." They had strolled

out on to the terrace again, and along it to the further end

where at a touch from the Baron's chauffeur the great car

shivered and chuckled. "Those are the lights of Harwich, I

suppose," said the secretary, pulling on his dust coat. "How

still and peaceful it all seems. There may be other lights

within the week, and the English coast a less tranquil place!

The heavens, too, may not be quite so peaceful if all that the

good Zepplin promises us comes true. By the way, who is that?"



Only one window showed a light behind them; in it there stood a

lamp, and beside it, seated at a table, was a dear old ruddy-

faced woman in a country cap. She was bending over her knitting

and stopping occasionally to stroke a large black cat upon a

stool beside her.



"That is Martha, the only servant I have left."



The secretary chuckled.



"She might almost personify Britannia," said he, "with her

complete self-absorption and general air of comfortable

somnolence. Well, au revoir, Von Bork!" With a final wave of

his hand he sprang into the car, and a moment later the two

golden cones from the headlights shot through the darkness. The

secretary lay back in the cushions of the luxurious limousine,

with his thoughts so full of the impending European tragedy that

he hardly observed that as his car swung round the village street

it nearly passed over a little Ford coming in the opposite

direction.



Von Bork walked slowly back to the study when the last gleams of

the motor lamps had faded into the distance. As he passed he

observed that his old housekeeper had put out her lamp and

retired. It was a new experience to him, the silence and

darkness of his widespread house, for his family and household

had been a large one. It was a relief to him, however, to think

that they were all in safety and that, but for that one old woman

who had lingered in the kitchen, he had the whole place to

himself. There was a good deal of tidying up to do inside his

study and he set himself to do it until his keen, handsome face

was flushed with the heat of the burning papers. A leather

valise stood beside his table, and into this he began to pack

very neatly and systematically the precious contents of his safe.

He had hardly got started with the work, however, when his quick

ears caught the sounds of a distant car. Instantly he gave an

exclamation of satisfaction, strapped up the valise, shut the

safe, locked it, and hurried out on to the terrace. He was just

in time to see the lights of a small car come to a halt at the

gate. A passenger sprang out of it and advanced swiftly towards

him, while the chauffeur, a heavily built, elderly man with a

gray moustache, settled down like one who resigns himself to a

long vigil.



"Well?" asked Von Bork eagerly, running forward to meet his

visitor.



For answer the man waved a small brown-paper parcel triumphantly

above his head.



"You can give me the glad hand to-night, mister," he cried. "I'm

bringing home the bacon at last."



"The signals?"



"Same as I said in my cable. Every last one of them, semaphore,

lamp code, Marconi--a copy, mind you, not the original. That was

too dangerous. But it's the real goods, and you can lay to

that." He slapped the German upon the shoulder with a rough

familiarity from which the other winced.



"Come in," he said. "I'm all alone in the house. I was only

waiting for this. Of course a copy is better than the original.

If an original were missing they would change the whole thing.

You think it's all safe about the copy?"



The Irish-American had entered the study and stretched his long

limbs from the armchair. He was a tall, gaunt man of sixty, with

clear-cut features and a small goatee beard which gave him a

general resemblance to the caricatures of Uncle Sam. A half-

smoked, sodden cigar hung from the corner of his mouth, and as he

sat down he struck a match and relit it. "Making ready for a

move?" he remarked as he looked round him. "Say, mister," he

added, as his eyes fell upon the safe from which the curtain was

now removed, "you don't tell me you keep your papers in that?"



"Why not?"



"Gosh, in a wide-open contraption like that! And they reckon you

to be some spy. Why, a Yankee crook would be into that with a

can-opener. If I'd known that any letter of mine was goin' to

lie loose in a thing like that I'd have been a mug to write to

you at all."



"It would puzzle any crook to force that safe," Von Bork

answered. "You won't cut that metal with any tool."



"But the lock?"



"No, it's a double combination lock. You know what that is?"



"Search me," said the American.



"Well, you need a word as well as a set of figures before you can

get the lock to work." He rose and showed a double-radiating

disc round the keyhole. "This outer one is for the letters, the

inner one for the figures."



"Well, well, that's fine."



"So it's nit quite as simple as you thought. It was four years

ago that I had it made, and what do you think I chose for the

word and figures?"



"It's beyond me."



"Well, I chose August for the word, and 1914 for the figures, and

here we are."



The American's face showed his surprise and admiration.



"My, but that was smart! You had it down to a fine thing."



"Yes, a few of us even then could have guessed the date. Here it

is , and I'm shutting down to-morrow morning."



"Well, I guess you'll have to fix me up also. I'm not staying is

this gol-darned country all on my lonesome. In a week or less,

from what I see, John Bull will be on his hind legs and fair

ramping. I'd rather watch him from over the water."



"But you're an American citizen?"



"Well, so was Jack James an American citizen, but he's doing time

in Portland all the same. It cuts no ice with a British copper

to tell him you're an American citizen. 'It's British law and

order over here,' says he. By the way, mister, talking of Jack

James, it seems to me you don't do much to cover your men."



"What do you mean?" Von Bork asked sharply.



"Well, you are their employer, ain't you? It's up to you to see

that they don't fall down. But they do fall down, and when did

you ever pick them up? There's James--"



"It was James's own fault. You know that yourself. He was too

self-willed for the job."



"James was a bonehead--I give you that. Then there was Hollis."



"The man was mad."



"Well, he went a bit woozy towards the end. It's enough to make

a man bug-house when he has to play a part from morning to night

with a hundred guys all ready to set the coppers wise to him.

But now there is Steiner--"



Von Bork started violently, and his ruddy face turned a shade

paler.



"What about Steiner?"



"Well, they've got him, that's all. They raided his store last

night, and he and his papers are all in Portsmouth jail. You'll

go off and he, poor devil, will have to stand the racket, and

lucky if he gets off with his life. That's why I want to get

over the water as soon as you do."



Von Bork was a strong, self-contained man, but it was easy to see

that the news had shaken him.



"How could they have got on to Steiner?" he muttered. "That's

the worst blow yet."



"Well, you nearly had a worse one, for I believe they are not far

off me."



"You don't mean that!"



"Sure thing. My landlady down Fratton way had some inquiries,

and when I heard of it I guessed it was time for me to hustle.

But what I want to know, mister, is how the coppers know these

things? Steiner is the fifth man you've lost since I signed on

with you, and I know the name of the sixth if I don't get a move

on. How do you explain it, and ain't you ashamed to see your men

go down like this?"



Von Bork flushed crimson.



"How dare you speak in such a way!"



"If I didn't dare things, mister, I wouldn't be in your service.

But I'll tell you straight what is in my mind. I've heard that

with you German politicians when an agent has done his work you

are not sorry to see him put away."



Von Bork sprang to his feet.



"Do you dare to suggest that I have given away my own agents!"



"I don't stand for that, mister, but there's a stool pigeon or a

cross somewhere, and it's up to you to find out where it is.

Anyhow I am taking no more chances. It's me for little Holland,

and the sooner the better."



Von Bork had mastered his anger.



"We have been allies too long to quarrel now at the very hour of

victory," he said. "You've done splendid work and taken risks,

and I can't forget it. By all means go to Holland, and you can

get a boat from Rotterdam to New York. No other line will be

safe a week from now. I'll take that book and pack it with the

rest."



The American held the small parcel in his hand, but made no

motion to give it up.



"What about the dough?" he asked.



"The what?"



"The boodle. The reward. The 500 pounds. The gunner turned

damned nasty at the last, and I had to square him with an extra

hundred dollars or it would have been nitsky for you and me.

'Nothin' doin'!' says he, and he meant it, too, but the last

hundred did it. It's cost me two hundred pound from first to

last, so it isn't likely I'd give it up without gettin' my wad."



Von Bork smiled with some bitterness. "You don't seem to have a

very high opinion of my honour," said he, "you want the money

before you give up the book."



"Well, mister, it is a business proposition."



"All right. Have your way." He sat down at the table and

scribbled a check, which he tore from the book, but he refrained

from handing it to his companion. "After all, since we are to be

on such terms, Mr. Altamont," said he, "I don't see why I should

trust you any more than you trust me. Do you understand?" he

added, looking back over his shoulder at the American. "There's

the check upon the table. I claim the right to examine that

parcel before you pick the money up."



The American passed it over without a word. Von Bork undid a

winding of string and two wrappers of paper. Then he sat dazing

for a moment in silent amazement at a small blue book which lay

before him. Across the cover was printed in golden letters

Practical Handbook of Bee Culture. Only for one instant did the

master spy glare at this strangely irrelevant inscription. The

next he was gripped at the back of his neck by a grasp of iron,

and a chloroformed sponge was held in front of his writhing face.



"Another glass, Watson!" said Mr. Sherlock Holmes as he extended

the bottle of Imperial Tokay.



The thickset chauffeur, who had seated himself by the table,

pushed forward his glass with some eagerness.



"It is a good wine, Holmes."



"A remarkable wine, Watson. Our friend upon the sofa has assured

me that it is from Franz Josef's special cellar at the

Schoenbrunn Palace. Might I trouble you to open the window, for

chloroform vapour does not help the palate."



The safe was ajar, and Holmes standing in front of it was

removing dossier after dossier, swiftly examining each, and then

packing it neatly in Von Bork's valise. The German lay upon the

sofa sleeping stertorously with a strap round his upper arms and

another round his legs.



"We need not hurry ourselves, Watson. We are safe from

interruption. Would you mind touching the bell? There is no one

in the house except old Martha, who has played her part to

admiration. I got her the situation here when first I took the

matter up. Ah, Martha, you will be glad to hear that all is

well."



The pleasant old lady had appeared in the doorway. She curtseyed

with a smile to Mr. Holmes, but glanced with some apprehension at

the figure upon the sofa.



"It is all right, Martha. He has not been hurt at all."



"I am glad of that, Mr. Holmes. According to his lights he has

been a kind master. He wanted me to go with his wife to Germany

yesterday, but that would hardly have suited your plans, would

it, sir?"



"No, indeed, Martha. So long as you were here I was easy in my

mind. We waited some time for your signal to-night."



"It was the secretary, sir."



"I know. His car passed ours."



"I thought he would never go. I knew that it would not suit your

plans, sir, to find him here."



"No, indeed. Well, it only meant that we waited half an hour or

so until I saw your lamp go out and knew that the coast was

clear. You can report to me to-morrow in London, Martha, at

Claridge's Hotel."



"Very good, sir."



"I suppose you have everything ready to leave."



"Yes, sir. He posted seven letters to-day. I have the addresses

as usual."



"Very good, Martha. I will look into them to-morrow. Good-

night. These papers," he continued as the old lady vanished,

"are not of very great importance, for, of course, the

information which they represent has been sent off long ago to

the German government. These are the originals which cold not

safely be got out of the country."



"Then they are of no use."



"I should not go so far as to say that, Watson. They will at

least show our people what is known and what is not. I may say

that a good many of these papers have come through me, and I need

not add are thoroughly untrustworthy. It would brighten my

declining years to see a German cruiser navigating the Solent

according to the mine-field plans which I have furnished. But

you, Watson"--he stopped his work and took his old friend by the

shoulders--"I've hardly seen you in the light yet. How have the

years used you? You look the same blithe boy as ever."



"I feel twenty years younger, Holmes. I have seldom felt so

happy as when I got your wire asking me to meet you at Harwich

with the car. But you, Holmes--you have changed very little--

save for that horrible goatee."



"These are the sacrifices one makes for one's country, Watson,"

said Holmes, pulling at his little tuft. "To-morrow it will be

but a dreadful memory. With my hair cut and a few other

superficial changes I shall no doubt reappear at Claridge's to-

morrow as I was before this American stunt--I beg your pardon,

Watson, my well of English seems to be permanently defiled--

before this American job came my way."



"But you have retired, Holmes. We heard of you as living the

life of a hermit among your bees and your books in a small farm

upon the South Downs."



"Exactly, Watson. Here is the fruit of my leisured ease, the

magnum opus of my latter years!" He picked up the volume from

the table and read out the whole title, Practical Handbook of Bee

Culture, with Some Observations upon the Segregation of the

Queen. "Alone I did it. Behold the fruit of pensive nights and

laborious days when I watched the little working gangs as once I

watched the criminal world of London."



"But how did you get to work again?"



"Ah, I have often marvelled at it myself. The Foreign Minister

alone I could have withstood, but when the Premier also deigned

to visit my humble roof--! The fact is, Watson, that this

gentleman upon the sofa was a bit too good for our people. He

was in a class by himself. Things were going wrong, and no one

could understand why they were going wrong. Agents were

suspected or even caught, but there was evidence of some strong

and secret central force. It was absolutely necessary to expose

it. Strong pressure was brought upon me to look into the matter.

It has cost me two years, Watson, but they have not been devoid

of excitement. When I say that I started my pilgrimage at

Chicago, graduated in an Irish secret society at Buffalo, gave

serious trouble to the constabulary at Skibbareen, and so

eventually caught the eye of a subordinate agent of Von Bork, who

recommended me as a likely man, you will realize that the matter

was complex. Since then I have been honoured by his confidence,

which has not prevented most of his plans going subtly wrong and

five of his best agents being in prison. I watched them, Watson,

and I picked them as they ripened. Well, sir, I hope that you

are none the worse!"



The last remark was addressed to Von Bork himself, who after much

gasping and blinking had lain quietly listening to Holmes's

statement. He broke out now into a furious stream of German

invective, his face convulsed with passion. Holmes continued his

swift investigation of documents while his prisoner cursed and

swore.



"Though unmusical, German is the most expressive of all

languages," he observed when Von Bork had stopped from pure

exhaustion. "Hullo! Hullo!" he added as he looked hard at the

corner of a tracing before putting it in the box. "This should

put another bird in the cage. I had no idea that the paymaster

was such a rascal, though I have long had an eye upon him.

Mister Von Bork, you have a great deal to answer for."



The prisoner had raised himself with some difficulty upon the

sofa and was staring with a strange mixture of amazement and

hatred at his captor.



"I shall get level with you, Altamont," he said, speaking with

slow deliberation. "If it takes me all my life I shall get level

with you!"



"The old sweet song," said Holmes. "How often have I heard it in

days gone by. It was a favorite ditty of the late lamented

Professor Moriarty. Colonel Sebastian Moran has also been known

to warble it. And yet I live and keep bees upon the South

Downs."



"Curse you, you double traitor!" cried the German, straining

against his bonds and glaring murder from his furious eyes.



"No, no, it is not so bad as that," said Holmes, smiling. "As my

speech surely shows you, Mr. Altamont of Chicago had no existence

in fact. I used him and he is gone."



"Then who are you?"



"It is really immaterial who I am, but since the matter seems to

interest you, Mr. Von Bork, I may say that this is not my first

acquaintance with the members of your family. I have done a good

deal of business in Germany in the past and my name is probably

familiar to you."



"I would wish to know it," said the Prussian grimly.



"It was I who brought about the separation between Irene Adler

and the late King of Bohemia when your cousin Heinrich was the

Imperial Envoy. It was I also who saved from murder, by the

Nihilist Klopman, Count Von und Zu Grafenstein, who was your

mother's elder brother. It was I--"



Von Bork sat up in amazement.



"There is only one man," he cried.



"Exactly," said Holmes.



Von Bork groaned and sank back on the sofa. "And most of that

information came through you," he cried. "What is it worth?

What have I done? It is my ruin forever!"



"It is certainly a little untrustworthy," said Holmes. "It will

require some checking and you have little time to check it. Your

admiral may find the new guns rather larger than he expects, and

the cruisers perhaps a trifle faster."



Von Bork clutched at his own throat in despair.



"There are a good many other points of detail which will, no

doubt, come to light in good time. But you have one quality

which is very rare in a German, Mr. Von Bork: you are a

sportsman and you will bear me no ill-will when you realize that

you, who have outwitted so many other people, have at last been

outwitted yourself. After all, you have done your best for your

country, and I have done my best for mine, and what could be more

natural? Besides," he added, not unkindly, as he laid his hand

upon the shoulder of the prostrate man, "it is better than to

fall before some ignoble foe. These papers are now ready,

Watson. If you will help me with our prisoner, I think that we

may get started for London at once."



It was no easy task to move Von Bork, for he was a strong and a

desperate man. Finally, holding either arm, the two friends

walked him very slowly down the garden walk which he had trod

with such proud confidence when he received the congratulations

of the famous diplomatist only a few hours before. After a

short, final struggle he was hoisted, still bound hand and foot,

into the spare seat of the little car. His precious valise was

wedged in beside him.



"I trust that you are as comfortable as circumstances permit,"

said Holmes when the final arrangements were made. "Should I be

guilty of a liberty if I lit a cigar and placed it between your

lips?"



But all amenities were wasted upon the angry German.



"I suppose you realize, Mr. Sherlock Holmes," said he, "that if

your government bears you out in this treatment it becomes an act

of war."



"What about your government and all this treatment?" said Holmes,

tapping the valise.



"You are a private individual. You have no warrant for my

arrest. The whole proceeding is absolutely illegal and

outrageous."



"Absolutely," said Holmes.



"Kidnapping a German subject."



"And stealing his private papers."



"Well, you realize your position, you and your accomplice here.

If I were to shout for help as we pass through the village--"



"My dear sir, if you did anything so foolish you would probably

enlarge the two limited titles of our village inns by giving us

'The Dangling Prussian' as a signpost. The Englishman is a

patient creature, but at present his temper is a little inflamed,

and it would be as well not to try him too far. No, Mr. Von

Bork, you will go with us in a quiet, sensible fashion to

Scotland Yard, whence you can send for your friend, Baron Von

Herling, and see if even now you may not fill that place which he

has reserved for you in the ambassadorial suite. As to you,

Watson, you are joining us with your old service, as I

understand, so London won't be out of your way. Stand with me

here upon the terrace, for it may be the last quiet talk that we

shall ever have."



The two friends chatted in intimate converse for a few minutes,

recalling once again the days of the past, while their prisoner

vainly wriggled to undo the bonds that held him. As they turned

to the car Holmes pointed back to the moonlit sea and shook a

thoughtful head.



"There's an east wind coming, Watson."



"I think not, Holmes. It is very warm."



"Good old Watson! You are the one fixed point in a changing age.

There's an east wind coming all the same, such a wind as never

blew on England yet. It will be cold and bitter, Watson, and a

good many of us may wither before its blast. But it's God's own

wind none the less, and a cleaner, better, stronger land will lie

in the sunshine when the storm has cleared. Start her up,

Watson, for it's time that we were on our way. I have a check

for five hundred pounds which should be cashed early, for the

drawer is quite capable of stopping it if he can."





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