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THE ADVENTURES OF SHERLOCK HOLMES

by Arthur Conan Doyle


It had cleared in the morning, and the sun was shining with a
subdued brightness through the dim veil which hangs over the
great city. Sherlock Holmes was already at breakfast when I came
down.

"You will excuse me for not waiting for you," said he; "I have, I
foresee, a very busy day before me in looking into this case of
young Openshaw's."

"What steps will you take?" I asked.

"It will very much depend upon the results of my first inquiries.
I may have to go down to Horsham, after all."

"You will not go there first?"

"No, I shall commence with the City. Just ring the bell and the
maid will bring up your coffee."

As I waited, I lifted the unopened newspaper from the table and
glanced my eye over it. It rested upon a heading which sent a
chill to my heart.

"Holmes," I cried, "you are too late."

"Ah!" said he, laying down his cup, "I feared as much. How was it
done?" He spoke calmly, but I could see that he was deeply moved.

"My eye caught the name of Openshaw, and the heading 'Tragedy
Near Waterloo Bridge.' Here is the account:

"Between nine and ten last night Police-Constable Cook, of the H
Division, on duty near Waterloo Bridge, heard a cry for help and
a splash in the water. The night, however, was extremely dark and
stormy, so that, in spite of the help of several passers-by, it
was quite impossible to effect a rescue. The alarm, however, was
given, and, by the aid of the water-police, the body was
eventually recovered. It proved to be that of a young gentleman
whose name, as it appears from an envelope which was found in his
pocket, was John Openshaw, and whose residence is near Horsham.
It is conjectured that he may have been hurrying down to catch
the last train from Waterloo Station, and that in his haste and
the extreme darkness he missed his path and walked over the edge
of one of the small landing-places for river steamboats. The body
exhibited no traces of violence, and there can be no doubt that
the deceased had been the victim of an unfortunate accident,
which should have the effect of calling the attention of the
authorities to the condition of the riverside landing-stages."

We sat in silence for some minutes, Holmes more depressed and
shaken than I had ever seen him.

"That hurts my pride, Watson," he said at last. "It is a petty
feeling, no doubt, but it hurts my pride. It becomes a personal
matter with me now, and, if God sends me health, I shall set my
hand upon this gang. That he should come to me for help, and that
I should send him away to his death--!" He sprang from his chair
and paced about the room in uncontrollable agitation, with a
flush upon his sallow cheeks and a nervous clasping and
unclasping of his long thin hands.

"They must be cunning devils," he exclaimed at last. "How could
they have decoyed him down there? The Embankment is not on the
direct line to the station. The bridge, no doubt, was too
crowded, even on such a night, for their purpose. Well, Watson,
we shall see who will win in the long run. I am going out now!"

"To the police?"

"No; I shall be my own police. When I have spun the web they may
take the flies, but not before."

All day I was engaged in my professional work, and it was late in
the evening before I returned to Baker Street. Sherlock Holmes
had not come back yet. It was nearly ten o'clock before he
entered, looking pale and worn. He walked up to the sideboard,
and tearing a piece from the loaf he devoured it voraciously,
washing it down with a long draught of water.

"You are hungry," I remarked.

"Starving. It had escaped my memory. I have had nothing since
breakfast."

"Nothing?"

"Not a bite. I had no time to think of it."

"And how have you succeeded?"

"Well."

"You have a clew?"

"I have them in the hollow of my hand. Young Openshaw shall not
long remain unavenged. Why, Watson, let us put their own devilish
trade-mark upon them. It is well thought of!"

"What do you mean?"

He took an orange from the cupboard, and tearing it to pieces he
squeezed out the pips upon the table. Of these he took five and
thrust them into an envelope. On the inside of the flap he wrote
"S. H. for J. 0." Then he sealed it and addressed it to "Captain
James Calhoun, Bark Lone Star, Savannah, Georgia."

"That will await him when he enters port," said he, chuckling.
"It may give him a sleepless night. He will find it as sure a
precursor of his fate as Openshaw did before him."

"And who is this Captain Calhoun?"

"The leader of the gang. I shall have the others, but he first."

"How did you trace it, then?"

He took a large sheet of paper from his pocket, all covered with
dates and names.

"I have spent the whole day," said he, "over Lloyd's registers
and files of the old papers, following the future career of every
vessel which touched at Pondicherry in January and February in
'83. There were thirty-six ships of fair tonnage which were
reported there during those months. Of these, one, the Lone Star,
instantly attracted my attention, since, although it was reported
as having cleared from London, the name is that which is given to
one of the states of the Union."

"Texas, I think."

"I was not and am not sure which; but I knew that the ship must
have an American origin."

"What then?"

"I searched the Dundee records, and when I found that the bark
Lone Star was there in January, '85, my suspicion became a
certainty. I then inquired as to the vessels which lay at present
in the port of London."

"Yes?"

"The Lone Star had arrived here last week. I went down to the
Albert Dock and found that she had been taken down the river by
the early tide this morning, homeward bound to Savannah. I wired
to Gravesend and learned that she had passed some time ago, and
as the wind is easterly I have no doubt that she is now past the
Goodwins and not very far from the Isle of Wight."

"What will you do, then?"

"Oh, I have my hand upon him. He and the two mates, are as I
learn, the only native-born Americans in the ship. The others are
Finns and Germans. I know, also, that they were all three away
from the ship last night. I had it from the stevedore who has
been loading their cargo. By the time that their sailing-ship
reaches Savannah the mail-boat will have carried this letter, and
the cable will have informed the police of Savannah that these
three gentlemen are badly wanted here upon a charge of murder."

There is ever a flaw, however, in the best laid of human plans,
and the murderers of John Openshaw were never to receive the
orange pips which would show them that another, as cunning and as
resolute as themselves, was upon their track. Very long and very
severe were the equinoctial gales that year. We waited long for
news of the Lone Star of Savannah, but none ever reached us. We
did at last hear that somewhere far out in the Atlantic a
shattered stern-post of the boat was seen swinging in the trough
of a wave, with the letters "L. S." carved upon it, and that is
all which we shall ever know of the fate of the Lone Star.

 


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