The Adventure Of Black Peter





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 borne 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.



"Someone 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 hunter 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 Hopkin'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

side-table. 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."





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