It was in the spring of the year 1894 that all London was excited by the news of the murder of Ronald Adair under the most unusual circumstances.
Ronald Adair was the second son of the Earl of Maynooth, at that time a governor of one of the Australian colonies. Adair’s mother had returned from Australia to undergo an operation for cataract and she, her son Ronald and her daughter Hilda were living together at 427 Park Lane. He had been engaged’ to Miss Edith Woodley but their engagement had been broken off some months before and neither of them seemed to be sorry about it. He was a quiet man whose life moved in a narrow circle. Yet it was this aristocrat who was unexpectedly murdered between ten and eleven twenty on the night of March 1894.
Ronald Adair was fond of cards. He belonged to several card clubs. On the day of his death he had played whist at one of these card clubs. The men who played with him said that he had lost about five pounds but no more. He was a rich man and the loss was not important to him at all. He played nearly every day and he generally won.
On the evening of the crime he returned from the club at ten. His mother and sister were out spending the evening with a friend of theirs. The servant heard him come into the front room on the second floor. Lady Maynooth and her daughter returned at eleven twenty. They wanted to say good-night to Ronald. They knocked at the door, but no answer came. The door was locked on the inside. They called for help, and when the door was forced they found the young man lying near the table with a revolver bullet’ in his head. However, no revolver could be seen in the room. On the table there were two banknotes for two pounds each and seventeen pounds ten in silver and gold. There were also some figures written upon a sheet of paper with the names of some club friends opposite to them, from which it was supposed that he was trying to make out his losses and winnings at cards.
Why did the young man lock the door on the inside? It was possible that the murderer had done this and had escaped by the window. But there were no foot-marks on the grass under the window.
I was thinking about these facts and I asked myself what my poor friend Sherlock Holmes would have done under those circumstances but I could not find the right answer. In the evening I went to see the house at Park Lane where Ronald had been murdered. There were some people standing in the street and staring up at the window of his room. A tall thin man with coloured glasses who looked like a detective was speaking to them. I got as near him as I could but his observations seemed to me to be absurd. So I turned back. As I did so I struck against an old man who was standing behind me and I knocked down several books he was carrying. I picked them up and said I was very sorry but he was angry and did not listen to me. He took his books and disappeared among the crowd. It was clear that these books were very dear to him. «The fellow must be some poor book collector,» I thought.
My observations of No. 427 Park Lane did not help me much to solve the problem. More puzzled than ever I went home. I had not been in my study five minutes when a man came to see me. It was the old book collector I had knocked down in the street.
«You are surprised to see me, sir,» he said in a strange voice. «I was a bit rude. So I thought to myself I’d better come and thank that kind gentleman for picking up my books.»
«That’s all right. But may I ask you how you knew who I was?»
«Well, sir, we live in the same street; you will find my little bookshop at the corner of Church Street and I’ll be very happy to see you, I’m sure. Maybe you collect books yourself.»
«I looked at the bookshelves behind me. When I turned again, Sherlock Holmes was standing by my table smiling at me. I stared at him with the greatest surprise and for the first time in my life I fainted.» When I opened my eyes again, I saw Holmes holding a bottle of brandy in his hand.
«My dear Watson,» said the well-remembered voice, «I am so sorry. I did not suppose I might frighten you so much.»
“Holmes”, I cried, “is it really you? Can it indeed be that you are alive? Is it possible that you succeeded in climbing out of that abyss?”
“Wait a moment”, he said. “Are you sure that you are really able to discuss things? I have given you a serious shock”.
«I am all right, Holmes, but I can hardly believe my eyes. Sit down and tell me everything.»
He sat opposite to me and lit a cigarette. He looked thin and his face showed that his life recently had not been a healthy one.
«Well then, about this abyss. I had no difficulty in getting out of it because I never was in it.»
«You never were in it?»
«No, Watson, I never was in it. What I wrote to you in my letter was quite true. I was almost certain that I had come to the end of my career.» After I had left the note with my cigarette-case, I walked along the path and Moriarty followed me. When we reached the end, he rushed at me. He was very strong but I knew baritsu, the Japanese system of fighting, and I won. I saw him fall into the water.»
I listened with surprise to this explanation.
«But I saw with my own eyes that two lines of footmarks went down the path and none returned.
«It happened in this way. I knew that Moriarty was not the only man who wanted to murder me. There were at least three others. One or the other would certainly get me. On the other hand if all the world thought I was dead they would feel safe and I could easily catch them. I decided not to come back the way we went before but to climb the rocks. When I was going up the mountain a stone fell to the ground. I knew it was thrown by one of Moriarty’s companions. However, I went on. It was getting dark and the man could not see me. A week later I arrived in Florence and no one except my brother Mycroft knew where I was. I travelled for two years in Tibet and in Persia. Then I went to France. I learned that only one of Moriarty’s companions was now in London. I was about to return» when the news of Roriald’s death reached me and I decided to come at once.
«Now, dear Watson, we have if I may ask you for you help, a dangerous night’s work in front of us. You will come with me tonight?»
«When you like and where you like.»
«This is, indeed, like the old days.»
At half past nine that evening I was sitting beside Holmes in a cab, my revolver in my pocket and the thrill of adventure in my heart. Holmes was cold and silent. I did not know where we were going but I was sure that the adventure was a most serious one. We stopped the cab at the corner of Cavendish Square and walked through many streets until we came to a small house. Holmes opened with a key the back door of this house. We entered together and he closed the door. The house was empty. We turned to the right and found ourselves in a large room. There was no lamp near but it was lit in the centre from the lights of the street.
«Do you know where we are?» Holmes asked.
«Surely that is Baker Street,» I answered looking through the window.
«Exactly. We are in the house which stands opposite to our old house.»
«But why are we here?»
«Because I would like to look at our old rooms. Will you come a little nearer to the window and see if anything has changed during the three years of my absence?»
I looked across at our old window and gave a cry of surprise. There was a man sitting on a chair there. A strong light was burning in the room. The face was turned half-round and it was a perfect reproduction» of Holmes.
«Good heavens!» I cried. «It is wonderful.»
«It really is rather like me, isn’t?»
«Everyone would think it was you.»
«It is figure of wax» and it has been made by a French artist who spent some days working at it. The rest I arranged myself during my visit to Baker Street this afternoon.»
«Because I wanted certain people to think that I was there.»
«And you thought the rooms were watched?»
«I knew they were watched.»
«By Professor Moriarty’s friends. You must remember that they knew, and only they knew I was alive. They believed I should come back to my rooms.»
My friend’s plans were clear to me at last. We stood silently in darkness and watched the hurrying figures who passed in front of us. I especially noticed two men who stood at the door of the house. I showed them to Holmes but he only gave a cry of impatience and continued to watch the street. I looked at the lighted window again and to my great surprise I saw that the wax figure had moved and it was no more the face but the back that was turned towards us.
«It has moved!» I cried.
«Of course, it has moved,» said Holmes. “Mrs. Hudson has made some change in that figure eight times during the last two hours. She works it from the front so that her shadow may never be seen”
Suddenly I heard a sound coming from the back of the house in which we were hidden. A door opened and shut. A minute later a man came into the room. He was three yards from us and I realised that he had no idea of our presence. He went to the window. He carried something like a stick but soon I saw it was a sort of gun. He opened the window and the light of the street fell full upon his face. The man seemed to be very excited. His two eyes shone like stars. He took something from the pocket of his coat and put it into the gun. For some time he stood listening. Then he put his finger on the trigger» and fired. There was a sound of broken glass. At that moment Holmes jumped like a tiger on to the man’s back and knocked him down. The man was up again in a moment but then I struck him with my revolver. He fell to the floor and I fell on him. As I held him my friend blew on a whistle.» Two policemen in uniform with one detective rushed through the front door and into the room.
«Is that you, Lestrade?» asked Holmes.
«Yes, Mr Holmes. It’s good to see you back in London, sir.»
“I think you want a little unofficial help. Three undetected murders in one year won’t do”.
We had all stood up. The policemen held the prisoner. Holmes went to the window and closed it. Lestrade lit two candles. I was able at last to have a good look at our prisoner. He was a strong man with cruel blue eyes and an aggressive nose. He did not look at any of us but his eyes were fixed at Holmes’s face.
“You fiend” he kept on saying. “You clever, clever fiend”.
«Ah, Colonel,» said Holmes. «I don’t think I have had the pleasure of seeing you since the time when you showed so much interest in me at the Reichenbach Falls.»
The colonel still stared at my friend.
«You clever, clever fiend!» was all he could say.
«I haven’t introduced you yet,» said Holmes. «This gentleman is Colonel» Sebastian Moran, once an off icer of the Indian Army and the best shot in our Eastern Empire. I believe I am right, Colonel, in saying that your bag of tigers is still the greatest there.»
The man said nothing but looked at my friend very angrily.
«I must say that you had one small surprise for me,» continued Holmes. «I did not expect you would make use of this empty house. I thought you would shoot from the street where my friend Lestrade and his men were waiting for you. With that exception» all has gone as I expected.»
Holmes picked up the gun from the floor and was examining its mechanism.
«An admirable gun,»‘4 he said. «I knew the mechanic who constructed it to the order of Professor Moriarty. Take care of it, Lestrade.»
«We will look after that,» said Lestrade. «Anything else to say?»
«Only to ask you what Colonel Moran will be charged» with?»
«With the attempted murder of Mr. Sherlock Holmes, of course.»
«Not so, Lestrade. I do not want to appear in the matter at all. You have got the man who shot Ronald Adair with the bullet from an air-gun through the open window of the second floor front of No 427 Park Lane on the thirtieth of last month. That’s the charge. Yes, Lestrade. I congratulate you on your success. And now, Watson, let us go and have a smoke in my old study.»
Mrs. Hudson was very pleased to see us again. She took us the room and showed us the strange wax figure.
«I’m afraid the bullet has spoilt the figure because it passed right through the head. I picked it up from the floor. Here it is.»
Holmes held it out to me.
«Look, Watson. A soft revolver bullet. Who would expect to find such a thing fired from an air-gun! All right, Mrs. Hudson. Thank you f or your help. And now, Watson, sit down in your old armchair once more. There are many things I would like to discuss with you.»
He took his clothes from the wax figure and put them on, and now he was the Holmes of old.
«Well,» he said, «Moran was the best shot in India and there are few better in London. Have you heard his name?» «No, I haven’t.»
«Well, well, such is fame. But if I remember right, you had not heard the name of Professor Moriarty who was one of the most intelligent men of the century. Just give me my index of biographies from the shelf.»
He turned over several pages and gave the book back to me. I read:
Moran, Sebastian, Colonel. Unemployed. Born in London 1840. Son of Mr. Augustus Moran, once British Minister to Persia. Educated in Eton and Oxford. Served in the army in the Eastern Empire. Author of several books on hunting. Address: Conduit Street.
On the margin» was written in Holmes’s hand:
The second most dangerous man in London.
«This is surprising,» I said. «The man’s career is that of a good soldier.»
«Yes,» Holmes answered, «at first he did well. But he began to go wrong and had to leave India. He came to London and it was at this time that he met Professor Moriarty. Moriarty gave him a lot of money and used him in the most difficult jobs. You remember when I called on you in 1887 I closed the shutters because I was afraid of air-guns. I knew of the existence» of this air-gun and I knew also that it would be used by one of the best shots. When we were in Switzerland, Moran f ollowed us with Moriarty and he tried to kill me in the mountains. When I read in France in the newspapers about Ronald’s death, I was certain that Colonel Moran had done it. He had played cards with him and had followed him home from the club. He shot him through the open window. I came over at once but a friend of his saw me and I was sure he would tell Moran about my return. That is why I decided to put the wax figure in my room and watch the street from the empty house. I also warned the police.»
«Yes,» I said, «but why did he murder Ronald?»
«I think that’s not difficult to explain. They played cards and Adair saw that Moran cheated him» so he probably warned him that he would tell everyone about it unless he promised not to come to the club again. This would mean ruin» to Moran who lived by his card gains. Adair returned home and tried to find out how much money he had lost. He locked the door because he did not want anyone to see what he was doinq. It was then that Moran murdered him. Am I right do you think?»
«Certainly you are. Now Colonel Moran will trouble us no more. And his air-gun will be taken to the Scotland Yard Museum.»
- murder – убийство;
- under the most unusual circumstances – при самых необычных обстоятельства;
- a governor – губернатор;
- to undergo the operation for cataract – перенести операцию катаракты;
- had been engaged – был помолвлен;
- on the inside – изнутри
- a bullet – пуля;
- to make out his losses – записать сумму проигрышей;
- footmarks – следы;
- faint – терять сознание;
- succeeded in climbing out of that abyss – удалось выкарабкаться из этой бездны;
- career – карьера;
- to be about to return – собираться вернуться;
- to be lit – быть освещенным;
- a perfect reproduction – точная копия;
- a figure of wax – восковая фигура;
- shadow – тень;
- trigger – курок;
- blew on a whistle – засвистел;
- Three undetected murders in one year won’t do. – Три нераскрытых убийства за год – это никуда не годится;
- fiend – дьявол;
- colonel – полковник;
- with that exception – за исключение этого;
- an admirable gun – прекрасное ружье;
- be charged with – быть обиженным в;
- on the margin – на полях;
- existence – существование;
- warned – предупредил;
- cheated him – обманывал его;
- this would mean ruin – это было равносильно разорению.