I crept forward and looked across at the familiar window. As my eyes fell
upon it, I gave a gasp and a cry of amazement. The blind was down, and a
strong light was burning in the room. The shadow of a man who was seated
in a chair within was thrown in hard, black outline upon the luminous
screen of the window. There was no mistaking the poise of the head, the
squareness of the shoulders, the sharpness of the features. The face was
turned half-round, and the effect was that of one of those black
silhouettes which our grandparents loved to frame. It was a perfect
reproduction of Holmes. So amazed was I that I threw out my hand to make
sure that the man himself was standing beside me. He was quivering with
"Well?" said he.
"Good heavens!" I cried. "It is marvellous."
"I trust that age doth not wither nor custom stale my infinite variety,"
said he, and I recognized in his voice the joy and pride which the artist
takes in his own creation. "It really is rather like me, is it not?"
"I should be prepared to swear that it was you."
"The credit of the execution is due to Monsieur Oscar Meunier, of
Grenoble, who spent some days in doing the moulding. It is a bust in wax.
The rest I arranged myself during my visit to Baker Street this
"Because, my dear Watson, I had the strongest possible reason for wishing
certain people to think that I was there when I was really elsewhere."
"And you thought the rooms were watched?"
"I KNEW that they were watched."
"By my old enemies, Watson. By the charming society whose leader lies in
the Reichenbach Fall. You must remember that they knew, and only they
knew, that I was still alive. Sooner or later they believed that I should
come back to my rooms. They watched them continuously, and this morning
they saw me arrive."
"How do you know?"
"Because I recognized their sentinel when I glanced out of my window. He
is a harmless enough fellow, Parker by name, a garroter by trade, and a
remarkable performer upon the jew's-harp. I cared nothing for him. But I
cared a great deal for the much more formidable person who was behind him,
the bosom friend of Moriarty, the man who dropped the rocks over the
cliff, the most cunning and dangerous criminal in London. That is the man
who is after me to-night Watson, and that is the man who is quite unaware
that we are after him."
My friend's plans were gradually revealing themselves. From this
convenient retreat, the watchers were being watched and the trackers
tracked. That angular shadow up yonder was the bait, and we were the
hunters. In silence we stood together in the darkness and watched the
hurrying figures who passed and repassed in front of us. Holmes was silent
and motionless; but I could tell that he was keenly alert, and that his
eyes were fixed intently upon the stream of passers-by. It was a bleak and
boisterous night and the wind whistled shrilly down the long street. Many
people were moving to and fro, most of them muffled in their coats and
cravats. Once or twice it seemed to me that I had seen the same figure
before, and I especially noticed two men who appeared to be sheltering
themselves from the wind in the doorway of a house some distance up the
street. I tried to draw my companion's attention to them; but he gave a
little ejaculation of impatience, and continued to stare into the street.
More than once he fidgeted with his feet and tapped rapidly with his
fingers upon the wall. It was evident to me that he was becoming uneasy,
and that his plans were not working out altogether as he had hoped. At
last, as midnight approached and the street gradually cleared, he paced up
and down the room in uncontrollable agitation. I was about to make some
remark to him, when I raised my eyes to the lighted window, and again
experienced almost as great a surprise as before. I clutched Holmes's arm,
and pointed upward.
"The shadow has moved!" I cried.
It was indeed no longer the profile, but the back, which was turned
Three years had certainly not smoothed the asperities of his temper or his
impatience with a less active intelligence than his own.
"Of course it has moved," said he. "Am I such a farcical bungler, Watson,
that I should erect an obvious dummy, and expect that some of the sharpest
men in Europe would be deceived by it? We have been in this room two
hours, and Mrs. Hudson has made some change in that figure eight times, or
once in every quarter of an hour. She works it from the front, so that her
shadow may never be seen. Ah!" He drew in his breath with a shrill,
excited intake. In the dim light I saw his head thrown forward, his whole
attitude rigid with attention. Outside the street was absolutely deserted.
Those two men might still be crouching in the doorway, but I could no
longer see them. All was still and dark, save only that brilliant yellow
screen in front of us with the black figure outlined upon its centre.
Again in the utter silence I heard that thin, sibilant note which spoke of
intense suppressed excitement. An instant later he pulled me back into the
blackest corner of the room, and I felt his warning hand upon my lips. The
fingers which clutched me were quivering. Never had I known my friend more
moved, and yet the dark street still stretched lonely and motionless
But suddenly I was aware of that which his keener senses had already
distinguished. A low, stealthy sound came to my ears, not from the
direction of Baker Street, but from the back of the very house in which we
lay concealed. A door opened and shut. An instant later steps crept down
the passage—steps which were meant to be silent, but which
reverberated harshly through the empty house. Holmes crouched back against
the wall, and I did the same, my hand closing upon the handle of my
revolver. Peering through the gloom, I saw the vague outline of a man, a
shade blacker than the blackness of the open door. He stood for an
instant, and then he crept forward, crouching, menacing, into the room. He
was within three yards of us, this sinister figure, and I had braced
myself to meet his spring, before I realized that he had no idea of our
presence. He passed close beside us, stole over to the window, and very
softly and noiselessly raised it for half a foot. As he sank to the level
of this opening, the light of the street, no longer dimmed by the dusty
glass, fell full upon his face. The man seemed to be beside himself with
excitement. His two eyes shone like stars, and his features were working
convulsively. He was an elderly man, with a thin, projecting nose, a high,
bald forehead, and a huge grizzled moustache. An opera hat was pushed to
the back of his head, and an evening dress shirt-front gleamed out through
his open overcoat. His face was gaunt and swarthy, scored with deep,
savage lines. In his hand he carried what appeared to be a stick, but as
he laid it down upon the floor it gave a metallic clang. Then from the
pocket of his overcoat he drew a bulky object, and he busied himself in
some task which ended with a loud, sharp click, as if a spring or bolt had
fallen into its place. Still kneeling upon the floor he bent forward and
threw all his weight and strength upon some lever, with the result that
there came a long, whirling, grinding noise, ending once more in a
powerful click. He straightened himself then, and I saw that what he held
in his hand was a sort of gun, with a curiously misshapen butt. He opened
it at the breech, put something in, and snapped the breech-lock. Then,
crouching down, he rested the end of the barrel upon the ledge of the open
window, and I saw his long moustache droop over the stock and his eye
gleam as it peered along the sights. I heard a little sigh of satisfaction
as he cuddled the butt into his shoulder; and saw that amazing target, the
black man on the yellow ground, standing clear at the end of his
foresight. For an instant he was rigid and motionless. Then his finger
tightened on the trigger. There was a strange, loud whiz and a long,
silvery tinkle of broken glass. At that instant Holmes sprang like a tiger
on to the marksman's back, and hurled him flat upon his face. He was up
again in a moment, and with convulsive strength he seized Holmes by the
throat, but I struck him on the head with the butt of my revolver, and he
dropped again upon the floor. I fell upon him, and as I held him my
comrade blew a shrill call upon a whistle. There was the clatter of
running feet upon the pavement, and two policemen in uniform, with one
plain-clothes detective, rushed through the front entrance and into the
"That you, Lestrade?" said Holmes.
"Yes, Mr. Holmes. I took the job myself. It's good to see you back in
"I think you want a little unofficial help. Three undetected murders in
one year won't do, Lestrade. But you handled the Molesey Mystery with less
than your usual—that's to say, you handled it fairly well."
We had all risen to our feet, our prisoner breathing hard, with a stalwart
constable on each side of him. Already a few loiterers had begun to
collect in the street. Holmes stepped up to the window, closed it, and
dropped the blinds. Lestrade had produced two candles, and the policemen
had uncovered their lanterns. I was able at last to have a good look at
It was a tremendously virile and yet sinister face which was turned
towards us. With the brow of a philosopher above and the jaw of a
sensualist below, the man must have started with great capacities for good
or for evil. But one could not look upon his cruel blue eyes, with their
drooping, cynical lids, or upon the fierce, aggressive nose and the
threatening, deep-lined brow, without reading Nature's plainest
danger-signals. He took no heed of any of us, but his eyes were fixed upon
Holmes's face with an expression in which hatred and amazement were
equally blended. "You fiend!" he kept on muttering. "You clever, clever
"Ah, Colonel!" said Holmes, arranging his rumpled collar. "'Journeys end
in lovers' meetings,' as the old play says. I don't think I have had the
pleasure of seeing you since you favoured me with those attentions as I
lay on the ledge above the Reichenbach Fall."
The colonel still stared at my friend like a man in a trance. "You
cunning, cunning fiend!" was all that he could say.
"I have not introduced you yet," said Holmes. "This, gentlemen, is Colonel
Sebastian Moran, once of Her Majesty's Indian Army, and the best
heavy-game shot that our Eastern Empire has ever produced. I believe I am
correct Colonel, in saying that your bag of tigers still remains
The fierce old man said nothing, but still glared at my companion. With
his savage eyes and bristling moustache he was wonderfully like a tiger
"I wonder that my very simple stratagem could deceive so old a SHIKARI,"
said Holmes. "It must be very familiar to you. Have you not tethered a
young kid under a tree, lain above it with your rifle, and waited for the
bait to bring up your tiger? This empty house is my tree, and you are my
tiger. You have possibly had other guns in reserve in case there should be
several tigers, or in the unlikely supposition of your own aim failing
you. These," he pointed around, "are my other guns. The parallel is
Colonel Moran sprang forward with a snarl of rage, but the constables
dragged him back. The fury upon his face was terrible to look at.
"I confess that you had one small surprise for me," said Holmes. "I did
not anticipate that you would yourself make use of this empty house and
this convenient front window. I had imagined you as operating from the
street, where my friend, Lestrade and his merry men were awaiting you.
With that exception, all has gone as I expected."
Colonel Moran turned to the official detective.
"You may or may not have just cause for arresting me," said he, "but at
least there can be no reason why I should submit to the gibes of this
person. If I am in the hands of the law, let things be done in a legal
"Well, that's reasonable enough," said Lestrade. "Nothing further you have
to say, Mr. Holmes, before we go?"
Holmes had picked up the powerful air-gun from the floor, and was
examining its mechanism.
"An admirable and unique weapon," said he, "noiseless and of tremendous
power: I knew Von Herder, the blind German mechanic, who constructed it to
the order of the late Professor Moriarty. For years I have been aware of
its existence though I have never before had the opportunity of handling
it. I commend it very specially to your attention, Lestrade and also the
bullets which fit it."
"You can trust us to look after that, Mr. Holmes," said Lestrade, as the
whole party moved towards the door. "Anything further to say?"
"Only to ask what charge you intend to prefer?"
"What charge, sir? Why, of course, the attempted murder of Mr. Sherlock
"Not so, Lestrade. I do not propose to appear in the matter at all. To
you, and to you only, belongs the credit of the remarkable arrest which
you have effected. Yes, Lestrade, I congratulate you! With your usual
happy mixture of cunning and audacity, you have got him."
"Got him! Got whom, Mr. Holmes?"
"The man that the whole force has been seeking in vain—Colonel
Sebastian Moran, who shot the Honourable Ronald Adair with an expanding
bullet from an air-gun through the open window of the second-floor front
of No. 427 Park Lane, upon the thirtieth of last month. That's the charge,
Lestrade. And now, Watson, if you can endure the draught from a broken
window, I think that half an hour in my study over a cigar may afford you
some profitable amusement."
Our old chambers had been left unchanged through the supervision of
Mycroft Holmes and the immediate care of Mrs. Hudson. As I entered I saw,
it is true, an unwonted tidiness, but the old landmarks were all in their
place. There were the chemical corner and the acid-stained, deal-topped
table. There upon a shelf was the row of formidable scrap-books and books
of reference which many of our fellow-citizens would have been so glad to
burn. The diagrams, the violin-case, and the pipe-rack—even the
Persian slipper which contained the tobacco—all met my eyes as I
glanced round me. There were two occupants of the room—one, Mrs.
Hudson, who beamed upon us both as we entered—the other, the strange
dummy which had played so important a part in the evening's adventures. It
was a wax-coloured model of my friend, so admirably done that it was a
perfect facsimile. It stood on a small pedestal table with an old
dressing-gown of Holmes's so draped round it that the illusion from the
street was absolutely perfect.
"I hope you observed all precautions, Mrs. Hudson?" said Holmes.
"I went to it on my knees, sir, just as you told me."
"Excellent. You carried the thing out very well. Did you observe where the
"Yes, sir. I'm afraid it has spoilt your beautiful bust, for it passed
right through the head and flattened itself on the wall. I picked it up
from the carpet. Here it is!"
Holmes held it out to me. "A soft revolver bullet, as you perceive,
Watson. There's genius in that, for who would expect to find such a thing
fired from an airgun? All right, Mrs. Hudson. I am much obliged for your
assistance. And now, Watson, let me see you in your old seat once more,
for there are several points which I should like to discuss with you."
He had thrown off the seedy frockcoat, and now he was the Holmes of old in
the mouse-coloured dressing-gown which he took from his effigy.
"The old SHIKARI'S nerves have not lost their steadiness, nor his eyes
their keenness," said he, with a laugh, as he inspected the shattered
forehead of his bust.
"Plumb in the middle of the back of the head and smack through the brain.
He was the best shot in India, and I expect that there are few better in
London. Have you heard the name?"
"No, I have not."
"Well, well, such is fame! But, then, if I remember right, you had not
heard the name of Professor James Moriarty, who had one of the great
brains of the century. Just give me down my index of biographies from the
He turned over the pages lazily, leaning back in his chair and blowing
great clouds from his cigar.
"My collection of M's is a fine one," said he. "Moriarty himself is enough
to make any letter illustrious, and here is Morgan the poisoner, and
Merridew of abominable memory, and Mathews, who knocked out my left canine
in the waiting-room at Charing Cross, and, finally, here is our friend of
He handed over the book, and I read:
MORAN, SEBASTIAN, COLONEL. Unemployed. Formerly 1st Bangalore Pioneers.
Born London, 1840. Son of Sir Augustus Moran, C. B., once British Minister
to Persia. Educated Eton and Oxford. Served in Jowaki Campaign, Afghan
Campaign, Charasiab (despatches), Sherpur, and Cabul. Author of HEAVY GAME
OF THE WESTERN HIMALAYAS (1881); THREE MONTHS IN THE JUNGLE (1884).
Address: Conduit Street. Clubs: The Anglo-Indian, the Tankerville, the
Bagatelle Card Club.
On the margin was written, in Holmes's precise hand:
The second most dangerous man in London.
"This is astonishing," said I, as I handed back the volume. "The man's
career is that of an honourable soldier."
"It is true," Holmes answered. "Up to a certain point he did well. He was
always a man of iron nerve, and the story is still told in India how he
crawled down a drain after a wounded man-eating tiger. There are some
trees, Watson, which grow to a certain height, and then suddenly develop
some unsightly eccentricity. You will see it often in humans. I have a
theory that the individual represents in his development the whole
procession of his ancestors, and that such a sudden turn to good or evil
stands for some strong influence which came into the line of his pedigree.
The person becomes, as it were, the epitome of the history of his own
"It is surely rather fanciful."
"Well, I don't insist upon it. Whatever the cause, Colonel Moran began to
go wrong. Without any open scandal, he still made India too hot to hold
him. He retired, came to London, and again acquired an evil name. It was
at this time that he was sought out by Professor Moriarty, to whom for a
time he was chief of the staff. Moriarty supplied him liberally with
money, and used him only in one or two very high-class jobs, which no
ordinary criminal could have undertaken. You may have some recollection of
the death of Mrs. Stewart, of Lauder, in 1887. Not? Well, I am sure Moran
was at the bottom of it, but nothing could be proved. So cleverly was the
colonel concealed that, even when the Moriarty gang was broken up, we
could not incriminate him. You remember at that date, when I called upon
you in your rooms, how I put up the shutters for fear of air-guns? No
doubt you thought me fanciful. I knew exactly what I was doing, for I knew
of the existence of this remarkable gun, and I knew also that one of the
best shots in the world would be behind it. When we were in Switzerland he
followed us with Moriarty, and it was undoubtedly he who gave me that evil
five minutes on the Reichenbach ledge.
"You may think that I read the papers with some attention during my
sojourn in France, on the look-out for any chance of laying him by the
heels. So long as he was free in London, my life would really not have
been worth living. Night and day the shadow would have been over me, and
sooner or later his chance must have come. What could I do? I could not
shoot him at sight, or I should myself be in the dock. There was no use
appealing to a magistrate. They cannot interfere on the strength of what
would appear to them to be a wild suspicion. So I could do nothing. But I
watched the criminal news, knowing that sooner or later I should get him.
Then came the death of this Ronald Adair. My chance had come at last.
Knowing what I did, was it not certain that Colonel Moran had done it? He
had played cards with the lad, he had followed him home from the club, he
had shot him through the open window. There was not a doubt of it. The
bullets alone are enough to put his head in a noose. I came over at once.
I was seen by the sentinel, who would, I knew, direct the colonel's
attention to my presence. He could not fail to connect my sudden return
with his crime, and to be terribly alarmed. I was sure that he would make
an attempt to get me out of the way AT once, and would bring round his
murderous weapon for that purpose. I left him an excellent mark in the
window, and, having warned the police that they might be needed—by
the way, Watson, you spotted their presence in that doorway with unerring
accuracy—I took up what seemed to me to be a judicious post for
observation, never dreaming that he would choose the same spot for his
attack. Now, my dear Watson, does anything remain for me to explain?"
"Yes," said I. "You have not made it clear what was Colonel Moran's motive
in murdering the Honourable Ronald Adair?"
"Ah! my dear Watson, there we come into those realms of conjecture, where
the most logical mind may be at fault. Each may form his own hypothesis
upon the present evidence, and yours is as likely to be correct as mine."
"You have formed one, then?"
"I think that it is not difficult to explain the facts. It came out in
evidence that Colonel Moran and young Adair had, between them, won a
considerable amount of money. Now, Moran undoubtedly played foul—of
that I have long been aware. I believe that on the day of the murder Adair
had discovered that Moran was cheating. Very likely he had spoken to him
privately, and had threatened to expose him unless he voluntarily resigned
his membership of the club, and promised not to play cards again. It is
unlikely that a youngster like Adair would at once make a hideous scandal
by exposing a well known man so much older than himself. Probably he acted
as I suggest. The exclusion from his clubs would mean ruin to Moran, who
lived by his ill-gotten card-gains. He therefore murdered Adair, who at
the time was endeavouring to work out how much money he should himself
return, since he could not profit by his partner's foul play. He locked
the door lest the ladies should surprise him and insist upon knowing what
he was doing with these names and coins. Will it pass?"
"I have no doubt that you have hit upon the truth."
"It will be verified or disproved at the trial. Meanwhile, come what may,
Colonel Moran will trouble us no more. The famous air-gun of Von Herder
will embellish the Scotland Yard Museum, and once again Mr. Sherlock
Holmes is free to devote his life to examining those interesting little
problems which the complex life of London so plentifully presents."