One day in the second year of my married life Mrs. Hudson, the landlady of Sherlock Holmes, came to my rooms and told me he was very ill.
«He is dying, Dr. Watson,» she said. «He hasn’t eaten and hasn’t drunk anything for three days and he wouldn’t allow me to get a doctor. This morning when I saw his thin and white face I could stand no more of it. ‘Mr. Holmes,’ I said, ‘I’m going for a doctor, whether you like it or not.’ ‘Let it be Watson, then,’ said he. So I have come to you.»
I rushed for my coat and hat. On our way to Baker Street Mrs. Hudson told me that Holmes had been working on a case near Rotherhithe close by the river and had brought this disease back with him.
When I entered his room Holmes was lying in bed. He was looking very ill. When he saw me he cried:
«Stand back! Stand back!»
«But why?» I asked.
«Because it is my wish. Is that not enough?»
«I only wanted to help,» I explained.
«Exactly! You will best help by doing what you are told.»
“I know what is the matter with me. It is a coolie disease from Sumatra. It is deadly and very contagious”. Contagious by touch, Watson. So keep your distance and all is well.»
“Good heavens”, Holmes! Do you imagine this would prevent me from doing my duty to so old a friend?»
Again I tried to come nearer. He got very angry.
«If you stand where you are I’ll talk to you. If not, you must leave the room.»
«Do you think I’ll stand here and see you die without helping you?»
«You mean well, Watson, but you can do nothing. You don’t know tropical diseases.»
«Possibly not. But I know Dr. Ainstree, the greatest specialist in tropical diseases. I’m going to bring him here.» I turned to the door.
Never have I had such a shock! The dying man jumped from his bed and locked the door. The next moment he was in bed again looking very tired.
«Now, Watson, it’s four o’clock. At six you can go. Will you wait?»
«I seem to have no choice.»
«None in the world, Watson. If you want to help me you must bring me the man that I choose. I’ll explain everything to you at six o’clock.»
I stood for some minutes looking at him. He fell asleep. Then I walked slowly round the room. I saw a small ivory box4 on the mantelpiece’ and I was going to take it in my hand when Holmes gave a loud cry: «Put it down, Watson! Put it down at once, I say! I don’t like when people touch my things.»
This incident showed me how ill my friend was. I sat in silence looking at the clock. He seemed to be watching the clock too. Before six he began to talk in great excitement. I understood that he was raving.’ He was shaking with fever. He asked me to light the gas and to put some letters and papers on the table near his bed.
«Thank you. Take those sugar-tongs’ now and kindly raise that small ivory box with them. Put it here among the papers. Be careful! Good! You can now go and bring Mr. Culverton Smith, of 13 Lower Burke Street.»
«I have never heard the name,» I said.
«Possibly not. He is not a doctor but a planter from Sumatra, now visiting London. Some time ago people fell ill in his plantation and there were no doctors in the neighbourhood. So he began to study this disease himself. I am sure he can help me. He is a very methodical person and I did not want you to start before six because I knew you would not f ind him in his study. He does not like me but if you tell him how ill I am he will certainly come. But don’t come with him. You must return here before he comes. Don’t forget.»
To tell the truth I did not want to leave Holmes, be- cause his appearance had changed for the worse during the f ew hours I had been with him. But he begged’ me to go.
«He can save me — only he.»
Mr. Smith did not want to see me at all. The servant told me he was very busy. However, I thought of Holmes lying ill in bed and I pushed the door and came into the room. When Mr. Smith heard I had come from Holmes, he was no longer angry with me. He was an unpleasant looking little man with a yellow face and cruel grey eyes.
«What about Holmes? How is he?» he asked.
«He is very ill. That is why I have come.»
«I am sorry to hear it. I have great respect for his talents and character. He is an amateur’ of crime as I am of disease. For him the criminal, for me — the microbe. These are my prisons,» he continued pointing to the bottles which stood on a table.
«Mr. Holmes has a high opinion» of you and thought that you were the only man in London who could help him.»
The little man started:
«Why?» he asked. «Why does he think I can help him?»
«Because you know Eastern diseases.»
«But why does he think that the disease which he has contracted is Eastern?»
«Because he has been working at a case among Chinese sailors.»
Mr. Smith smiled pleasantly.
«Oh, that’s it.» How long has he been ill?»
«About three days.»
«Is he raving?»
«That sounds serious. I will come with you at once, Dr. Watson.»
I told him I could not come with him because I had another appointment.
«Very good. I’ll go alone. I’ve got Mr. Holmes’s address.»
It was with a sad heart that I entered Holmes’s bedroom again. I was afraid he might be worse. But he felt much better.
«Well, did you see him, Watson?» he asked.
«Yes, he is coming.»
«Excellent, Watson! Excellent! Did he ask what was the matter with me?»
«It old him about the Chinese in the East End.»
«Exactly! Well, Watson, you have done all that a good friend could do. You can now disappear from the scene.»
«I must wait and hear his opinion, Holmes.»
«Of course you must. But I suppose his opinion will be much franker» if he imagines that we are alone. So you’d better hide behind my bed.»
«My dear Holmes!»
«I’m afraid there is no alternative, Watson. There isno other place in the room where you can hide.»
Suddenly he sat up listening.
«Quick, Watson! There are the wheels. Don’t speak and don’t move whatever happens. Just listen with all your ears.»
I hid behind the bed. I heard the opening and the closing of the bedroom door and then to my surprise there followed a long silence. I could imagine that our visitor was standing and looking at Holmes. At last he cried:
«Holmes, Holmes, can you hear me?»
«Is that you, Smith?» Holmes whispered. «I had little hope that you would come.»
The other laughed.
«And yet, you see, I am here.»
«It is very good of you. I have a high opinion of your special knowledge.»
Our visitor laughed again.
«Do you know what is the matter with you?»
«The same,» said Holmes.
«Well, I am not surprised that it is the same. PoorVictor was dead on the fourth day — a strong young fellow. It was certainly, as you said, very surprising that he contracted an Asiatic disease in London — a disease of which I have made a special study. Strange coincidence, Holmes.»
«I knew that you did it.»
«Oh, you did, did you? Well, you couldn’t prove it, anyhow. But what do you mean by saying that I did it and then asking me for help the moment you are in trouble?»
I heard the heavy breathing of Holmes.
«Give me some water,» he whispered.
«You are near your end, my friend, but I don’t want you to die before I have a word with you. So I’ll give you water.»
«Do what you can for me,» begged Holmes, «and I’ll forget it.»
«Well, about Victor Savage’s death. You almost said just now that you had done it. I’ll forget it.»
«You can forget it or remember, as you like. It doesn’t matter now.» You will die very soon. The fellow who came for me said you had contracted this disease among the Chinese sailors.»
«I think so. I am so ill. Please, help me!»
«Yes, I will help you. I would like you to know something before you die. Listen now. Can you remember any unusual incident just about the time» when you fell ill?»
«Well, then, I’ll help you. Did anything come by post?»
«A box, perhaps.»
«Oh, I’m fainting.»
I heard that Smith was shaking the dying man but I couldn’t leave my hiding-place.
«You must hear me,» the man shouted. «So you remember an ivory box? It came on Wednesday. You opened it — do you remember?»
«Yes, yes. I opened it. There was a spring inside it. Some joke.»
«It was no joke. Who asked you to cross my path? If you had left me alone I wouldn’t have hurt you.»
«I remember,» said Holmes. «This box, this box on the table.»
«Yes, it is this box. And it may as well leave the room in my pocket. You know the truth now, and you can die with the knowledge that I killed you. You know too much about the death of Victor Savage so I had to kill you too. You are very near your end, Holmes. I’ll sit here and watch you die.»
«Holmes’s voice was very weak now. He asked Smith to turn up the gas. Our visitor crossed the room and soon it was quite light.
«Is there anything else I can do for you, my friend?» he asked.
«Give me a match and a cigarette.»
I nearly cried out in my surprise. Holmes was speak- ing in his usual voice, the voice I knew. There was a long silence and I f elt that Smith was looking with surprise at his companion.
«What is the meaning of this?» I heard him say at last.
«I am a good actor. The best way of acting a part successfully is to live it. I give you my word that for three days I haven’t eaten and drunk anything because I wanted to feel and look ill. It was cigarettes that I missed most. Ah, here are some cigarettes»
He struck a match.
«That’s much better. Halloa! halloa! Do you hear the steps of a friend?»
The door opened and Inspector Morton appeared.
«This is your man,» said Holmes.
«I arrest you on the charge of murdering» Victor Savage,» said the Inspector.
«And you might add of the attempted murder» of Sherlock Holmes,» said Holmes smiling. «To save me the 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 his pocket. It would be well to take it from him. Thank you. But be very careful. Put it down here. It may be of use» in the trial.»
Smith tried to struggle with the Inspector. A minute later, however, I heard the sound of the closing handcuffs.
«A nice trap!» cried Smith. «He asked me to come to help him. I was sorry for him and I came. Now he will
Lie as you like, Holmes, my word is as good as yours.»
«Good heavens!» cried Holmes. «I have forgotten about him. My dear Watson, I am so sorry. I needn’t introduce you to Mr. Culverton Smith because you met earlier in the evening. Have you a cab, Inspector? I’ll follow you when I am dressed because I may be of some use at the Police Station.»
When the inspectar and the prisoner had left his room Holmes asked me if I was angry with him.
«You see,» he said. «I had to make Mrs. Hudson and you believe that I was really ill. If you had known the truth you wouldn’t have been able to make Smith come to me. You are not good at pretending.»
«But Holmes, you really looked ill.»
«Well, you can’t look well if you haven’t eaten for three days.»
«But why didn’t you allow me to come near you?»
«Can you ask, Watson? Do you imagine I have no respect for your medical talents? If you had come nearer, you would have known I was not dying at all. But don’t touch the box, Watson. It was a box like this that brought death to Victor Savage. I am always very careful with all my correspondence. It was, however, clear to me that only by pretending» that Smith had really succeeded with his plan I could make him tell me the truth. And I have succeeded. Thank you, Watson. You must help me with my coat. When we have finished at the police station, we shall go to a restaurant and have our dinner.»
contagions — заразная;
keep your distance — держитесь подальше;
Good heavens! — Боже мой!
ivory box — шкатулка из слоновой кости;
mantelpiece — камин;
he was raving — он бредил;
sugar-tongs — сахарные щипцы;
begged — умолял;
an amateur — любитель;
has a high opinion of you — высокого мнения о Вас;
Oh, that’s it. — Так вот в чем дело;
much franker — гораздо откровеннее;
strange coincidence — странное совпадение значения;
just about the time — примерно в то же время;
that I missed most — чего мне больше всего не хватает;
on the charge of murdering — по обвинению в убийстве;
the attempted murder — попытка убийства;
by the way — кстати говоря;
may be of use — может пригодиться;
only by pretending — только притворившись.