Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
In the third week of November, in
the year 1895, a dense yellow fog settled down upon
London. From the Monday to the Thursday I doubt
whether it was ever possible from our windows in Baker
Street to see the loom of the opposite houses.
The first day Holmes had spent in cross-indexing
his huge book of references. The second and third
had been patiently occupied upon a subject which he
had recently made his hobby the music of
the Middle Ages. But when, for the fourth time,
after pushing back our chairs from breakfast we saw
the greasy, heavy brown swirl still drifting past
us and condensing in oily drops upon the window-panes,
my comrade’s impatient and active nature could
endure this drab existence no longer. He paced
restlessly about our sitting-room in a fever of suppressed
energy, biting his nails, tapping the furniture, and
chafing against inaction.
“Nothing of interest in the paper, Watson?”
I was aware that by anything of interest,
Holmes meant anything of criminal interest.
There was the news of a revolution, of a possible
war, and of an impending change of government; but
these did not come within the horizon of my companion.
I could see nothing recorded in the shape of crime
which was not commonplace and futile. Holmes
groaned and resumed his restless meanderings.
“The London criminal is certainly
a dull fellow,” said he in the querulous voice
of the sportsman whose game has failed him. “Look
out this window, Watson. See how the figures
loom up, are dimly seen, and then blend once more
into the cloud-bank. The thief or the murderer
could roam London on such a day as the tiger does the
jungle, unseen until he pounces, and then evident
only to his victim.”
“There have,” said I, “been numerous
Holmes snorted his contempt.
“This great and sombre stage
is set for something more worthy than that,”
said he. “It is fortunate for this community
that I am not a criminal.”
“It is, indeed!” said I heartily.
“Suppose that I were Brooks
or Woodhouse, or any of the fifty men who have good
reason for taking my life, how long could I survive
against my own pursuit? A summons, a bogus appointment,
and all would be over. It is well they don’t
have days of fog in the Latin countries the
countries of assassination. By Jove! here comes
something at last to break our dead monotony.”
It was the maid with a telegram.
Holmes tore it open and burst out laughing.
“Well, well! What next?”
said he. “Brother Mycroft is coming round.”
“Why not?” I asked.
“Why not? It is as if
you met a tram-car coming down a country lane.
Mycroft has his rails and he runs on them. His
Pall Mall lodgings, the Diogenes Club, Whitehall that
is his cycle. Once, and only once, he has been
here. What upheaval can possibly have derailed
“Does he not explain?”
Holmes handed me his brother’s telegram.
Must see you over Cadogen West. Coming at once.
“Cadogen West? I have heard the name.”
“It recalls nothing to my mind.
But that Mycroft should break out in this erratic
fashion! A planet might as well leave its orbit.
By the way, do you know what Mycroft is?”
I had some vague recollection of an
explanation at the time of the Adventure of the Greek
“You told me that he had some
small office under the British government.”
“I did not know you quite so
well in those days. One has to be discreet when
one talks of high matters of state. You are right
in thinking that he under the British government.
You would also be right in a sense if you said that
occasionally he is the British government.”
“My dear Holmes!”
“I thought I might surprise
you. Mycroft draws four hundred and fifty pounds
a year, remains a subordinate, has no ambitions of
any kind, will receive neither honour nor title, but
remains the most indispensable man in the country.”
“Well, his position is unique.
He has made it for himself. There has never
been anything like it before, nor will be again.
He has the tidiest and most orderly brain, with the
greatest capacity for storing facts, of any man living.
The same great powers which I have turned to the
detection of crime he has used for this particular
business. The conclusions of every department
are passed to him, and he is the central exchange,
the clearinghouse, which makes out the balance.
All other men are specialists, but his specialism
is omniscience. We will suppose that a minister
needs information as to a point which involves the
Navy, India, Canada and the bimetallic question; he
could get his separate advices from various departments
upon each, but only Mycroft can focus them all, and
say offhand how each factor would affect the other.
They began by using him as a short-cut, a convenience;
now he has made himself an essential. In that
great brain of his everything is pigeon-holed and
can be handed out in an instant. Again and again
his word has decided the national policy. He
lives in it. He thinks of nothing else save
when, as an intellectual exercise, he unbends if I
call upon him and ask him to advise me on one of my
little problems. But Jupiter is descending to-day.
What on earth can it mean? Who is Cadogan West,
and what is he to Mycroft?”
“I have it,” I cried,
and plunged among the litter of papers upon the sofa.
“Yes, yes, here he is, sure enough! Cadogen
West was the young man who was found dead on the Underground
on Tuesday morning.”
Holmes sat up at attention, his pipe halfway to his
“This must be serious, Watson.
A death which has caused my brother to alter his
habits can be no ordinary one. What in the world
can he have to do with it? The case was featureless
as I remember it. The young man had apparently
fallen out of the train and killed himself. He
had not been robbed, and there was no particular reason
to suspect violence. Is that not so?”
“There has been an inquest,”
said I, “and a good many fresh facts have come
out. Looked at more closely, I should certainly
say that it was a curious case.”
“Judging by its effect upon
my brother, I should think it must be a most extraordinary
one.” He snuggled down in his armchair.
“Now, Watson, let us have the facts.”
“The man’s name was Arthur
Cadogan West. He was twenty-seven years of age,
unmarried, and a clerk at Woolwich Arsenal.”
“Government employ. Behold
the link with Brother Mycroft!”
“He left Woolwich suddenly on
Monday night. Was last seen by his fiancee,
Miss Violet Westbury, whom he left abruptly in the
fog about 7:30 that evening. There was no quarrel
between them and she can give no motive for his action.
The next thing heard of him was when his dead body
was discovered by a plate-layer named Mason, just outside
Aldgate Station on the Underground system in London.”
“The body was found at six on
Tuesday morning. It was lying wide of the metals
upon the left hand of the track as one goes eastward,
at a point close to the station, where the line emerges
from the tunnel in which it runs. The head was
badly crushed an injury which might well
have been caused by a fall from the train. The
body could only have come on the line in that way.
Had it been carried down from any neighbouring street,
it must have passed the station barriers, where a
collector is always standing. This point seems
“Very good. The case is
definite enough. The man, dead or alive, either
fell or was precipitated from a train. So much
is clear to me. Continue.”
“The trains which traverse the
lines of rail beside which the body was found are
those which run from west to east, some being purely
Metropolitan, and some from Willesden and outlying
junctions. It can be stated for certain that
this young man, when he met his death, was travelling
in this direction at some late hour of the night, but
at what point he entered the train it is impossible
“His ticket, of course, would show that.”
“There was no ticket in his pockets.”
“No ticket! Dear me, Watson,
this is really very singular. According to my
experience it is not possible to reach the platform
of a Metropolitan train without exhibiting one’s
ticket. Presumably, then, the young man had one.
Was it taken from him in order to conceal the station
from which he came? It is possible. Or
did he drop it in the carriage? That is also
possible. But the point is of curious interest.
I understand that there was no sign of robbery?”
“Apparently not. There
is a list here of his possessions. His purse
contained two pounds fifteen. He had also a check-book
on the Woolwich branch of the Capital and Counties
Bank. Through this his identity was established.
There were also two dress-circle tickets for the Woolwich
Theatre, dated for that very evening. Also a
small packet of technical papers.”
Holmes gave an exclamation of satisfaction.
“There we have it at last, Watson!
British government Woolwich. Arsenal technical
papers Brother Mycroft, the chain is complete.
But here he comes, if I am not mistaken, to speak
A moment later the tall and portly
form of Mycroft Holmes was ushered into the room.
Heavily built and massive, there was a suggestion
of uncouth physical inertia in the figure, but above
this unwieldy frame there was perched a head so masterful
in its brow, so alert in its steel-gray, deep-set
eyes, so firm in its lips, and so subtle in its play
of expression, that after the first glance one forgot
the gross body and remembered only the dominant mind.
At his heels came our old friend Lestrade,
of Scotland Yard thin and austere.
The gravity of both their faces foretold some weighty
quest. The detective shook hands without a word.
Mycroft Holmes struggled out of his overcoat and subsided
into an armchair.
“A most annoying business, Sherlock,”
said he. “I extremely dislike altering
my habits, but the powers that be would take no denial.
In the present state of Siam it is most awkward that
I should be away from the office. But it is
a real crisis. I have never seen the Prime Minister
so upset. As to the Admiralty it is
buzzing like an overturned bee-hive. Have you
read up the case?”
“We have just done so. What were the technical
“Ah, there’s the point!
Fortunately, it has not come out. The press
would be furious if it did. The papers which
this wretched youth had in his pocket were the plans
of the Bruce-Partington submarine.”
Mycroft Holmes spoke with a solemnity
which showed his sense of the importance of the subject.
His brother and I sat expectant.
“Surely you have heard of it?
I thought everyone had heard of it.”
“Only as a name.”
“Its importance can hardly be
exaggerated. It has been the most jealously
guarded of all government secrets. You may take
it from me that naval warfare becomes impossible withing
the radius of a Bruce-Partington’s operation.
Two years ago a very large sum was smuggled through
the Estimates and was expended in acquiring a monopoly
of the invention. Every effort has been made
to keep the secret. The plans, which are exceedingly
intricate, comprising some thirty separate patents,
each essential to the working of the whole, are kept
in an elaborate safe in a confidential office adjoining
the arsenal, with burglar-proof doors and windows.
Under no conceivable circumstances were the plans
to be taken from the office. If the chief constructor
of the Navy desired to consult them, even he was forced
to go to the Woolwich office for the purpose.
And yet here we find them in the pocket of a dead
junior clerk in the heart of London. From an
official point of view it’s simply awful.”
“But you have recovered them?”
“No, Sherlock, no! That’s
the pinch. We have not. Ten papers were
taken from Woolwich. There were seven in the
pocket of Cadogan West. The three most essential
are gone stolen, vanished. You must
drop everything, Sherlock. Never mind your usual
petty puzzles of the police-court. It’s
a vital international problem that you have to solve.
Why did Cadogan West take the papers, where are the
missing ones, how did he die, how came his body where
it was found, how can the evil be set right?
Find an answer to all these questions, and you will
have done good service for your country.”
“Why do you not solve it yourself,
Mycroft? You can see as far as I.”
“Possibly, Sherlock. But
it is a question of getting details. Give me
your details, and from an armchair I will return you
an excellent expert opinion. But to run here
and run there, to cross-question railway guards, and
lie on my face with a lens to my eye it
is not my metier. No, you are the one man who
can clear the matter up. If you have a fancy
to see your name in the next honours list ”
My friend smiled and shook his head.
“I play the game for the game’s
own sake,” said he. “But the problem
certainly presents some points of interest, and I shall
be very pleased to look into it. Some more facts,
“I have jotted down the more
essential ones upon this sheet of paper, together
with a few addresses which you will find of service.
The actual official guardian of the papers is the
famous government expert, Sir James Walter, whose
decorations and sub-titles fill two lines of a book
of reference. He has grown gray in the service,
is a gentleman, a favoured guest in the most exalted
houses, and, above all, a man whose patriotism is
beyond suspicion. He is one of two who have a
key of the safe. I may add that the papers were
undoubtedly in the office during working hours on
Monday, and that Sir James left for London about three
o’clock taking his key with him. He was
at the house of Admiral Sinclair at Barclay Square
during the whole of the evening when this incident
“Has the fact been verified?”
“Yes; his brother, Colonel Valentine
Walter, has testified to his departure from Woolwich,
and Admiral Sinclair to his arrival in London; so
Sir James is no longer a direct factor in the problem.”
“Who was the other man with a key?”
“The senior clerk and draughtsman,
Mr. Sidney Johnson. He is a man of forty, married,
with five children. He is a silent, morose man,
but he has, on the whole, an excellent record in the
public service. He is unpopular with his colleagues,
but a hard worker. According to his own account,
corroborated only by the word of his wife, he was at
home the whole of Monday evening after office hours,
and his key has never left the watch-chain upon which
“Tell us about Cadogan West.”
“He has been ten years in the
service and has done good work. He has the reputation
of being hot-headed and imperious, but a straight,
honest man. We have nothing against him.
He was next Sidney Johnson in the office. His
duties brought him into daily, personal contact with
the plans. No one else had the handling of them.”
“Who locked up the plans that night?”
“Mr. Sidney Johnson, the senior clerk.”
“Well, it is surely perfectly
clear who took them away. They are actually
found upon the person of this junior clerk, Cadogan
West. That seems final, does it not?”
“It does, Sherlock, and yet
it leaves so much unexplained. In the first
place, why did he take them?”
“I presume they were of value?”
“He could have got several thousands for them
“Can you suggest any possible
motive for taking the papers to London except to sell
“No, I cannot.”
“Then we must take that as our
working hypothesis. Young West took the papers.
Now this could only be done by having a false key ”
“Several false keys. He had to open the
building and the room.”
“He had, then, several false
keys. He took the papers to London to sell the
secret, intending, no doubt, to have the plans themselves
back in the safe next morning before they were missed.
While in London on this treasonable mission he met
“We will suppose that he was
travelling back to Woolwich when he was killed and
thrown out of the compartment.”
“Aldgate, where the body was
found, is considerably past the station London Bridge,
which would be his route to Woolwich.”
“Many circumstances could be
imagined under which he would pass London Bridge.
There was someone in the carriage, for example, with
whom he was having an absorbing interview. This
interview led to a violent scene in which he lost
his life. Possibly he tried to leave the carriage,
fell out on the line, and so met his end. The
other closed the door. There was a thick fog,
and nothing could be seen.”
“No better explanation can be
given with our present knowledge; and yet consider,
Sherlock, how much you leave untouched. We will
suppose, for argument’s sake, that young Cadogan
West had determined to convey these papers to
London. He would naturally have made an appointment
with the foreign agent and kept his evening clear.
Instead of that he took two tickets for the theatre,
escorted his fiancee halfway there, and then suddenly
“A blind,” said Lestrade,
who had sat listening with some impatience to the
“A very singular one.
That is objection N. Objection N:
We will suppose that he reaches London and sees the
foreign agent. He must bring back the papers
before morning or the loss will be discovered.
He took away ten. Only seven were in his pocket.
What had become of the other three? He certainly
would not leave them of his own free will. Then,
again, where is the price of his treason? Once
would have expected to find a large sum of money in
“It seems to me perfectly clear,”
said Lestrade. “I have no doubt at all
as to what occurred. He took the papers to sell
them. He saw the agent. They could not
agree as to price. He started home again, but
the agent went with him. In the train the agent
murdered him, took the more essential papers, and
threw his body from the carriage. That would
account for everything, would it not?”
“Why had he no ticket?”
“The ticket would have shown
which station was nearest the agent’s house.
Therefore he took it from the murdered man’s
“Good, Lestrade, very good,”
said Holmes. “Your theory holds together.
But if this is true, then the case is at an end.
On the one hand, the traitor is dead. On the
other, the plans of the Bruce-Partington submarine
are presumably already on the Continent. What
is there for us to do?”
“To act, Sherlock to
act!” cried Mycroft, springing to his feet.
“All my instincts are against this explanation.
Use your powers! Go to the scene of the crime!
See the people concerned! Leave no stone unturned!
In all your career you have never had so great a chance
of serving your country.”
“Well, well!” said Holmes,
shrugging his shoulders. “Come, Watson!
And you, Lestrade, could you favour us with your company
for an hour or two? We will begin our investigation
by a visit to Aldgate Station. Good-bye, Mycroft.
I shall let you have a report before evening, but
I warn you in advance that you have little to expect.”
An hour later Holmes, Lestrade and
I stood upon the Underground railroad at the point
where it emerges from the tunnel immediately before
Aldgate Station. A courteous red-faced old gentleman
represented the railway company.
“This is where the young man’s
body lay,” said he, indicating a spot about
three feet from the metals. “It could not
have fallen from above, for these, as you see, are
all blank walls. Therefore, it could only have
come from a train, and that train, so far as we can
trace it, must have passed about midnight on Monday.”
“Have the carriages been examined
for any sign of violence?”
“There are no such signs, and no ticket has
“No record of a door being found open?”
“We have had some fresh evidence
this morning,” said Lestrade. “A
passenger who passed Aldgate in an ordinary Metropolitan
train about 11:40 on Monday night declares that he
heard a heavy thud, as of a body striking the line,
just before the train reached the station. There
was dense fog, however, and nothing could be seen.
He made no report of it at the time. Why, whatever
is the matter with Mr. Holmes?”
My friend was standing with an expression
of strained intensity upon his face, staring at the
railway metals where they curved out of the tunnel.
Aldgate is a junction, and there was a network of
points. On these his eager, questioning eyes
were fixed, and I saw on his keen, alert face that
tightening of the lips, that quiver of the nostrils,
and concentration of the heavy, tufted brows which
I knew so well.
“Points,” he muttered; “the points.”
“What of it? What do you mean?”
“I suppose there are no great
number of points on a system such as this?”
“No; they are very few.”
“And a curve, too. Points, and a curve.
By Jove! if it were only so.”
“What is it, Mr. Holmes? Have you a clue?”
“An idea an indication,
no more. But the case certainly grows in interest.
Unique, perfectly unique, and yet why not? I
do not see any indications of bleeding on the line.”
“There were hardly any.”
“But I understand that there was a considerable
“The bone was crushed, but there was no great
“And yet one would have expected
some bleeding. Would it be possible for me to
inspect the train which contained the passenger who
heard the thud of a fall in the fog?”
“I fear not, Mr. Holmes.
The train has been broken up before now, and the
“I can assure you, Mr. Holmes,”
said Lestrade, “that every carriage has been
carefully examined. I saw to it myself.”
It was one of my friend’s most
obvious weaknesses that he was impatient with less
alert intelligences than his own.
“Very likely,” said he,
turning away. “As it happens, it was not
the carriages which I desired to examine. Watson,
we have done all we can here. We need not trouble
you any further, Mr. Lestrade. I think our investigations
must now carry us to Woolwich.”
At London Bridge, Holmes wrote a telegram
to his brother, which he handed to me before dispatching
it. It ran thus:
See some light in the darkness, but
it may possibly flicker out. Meanwhile, please
send by messenger, to await return at Baker Street,
a complete list of all foreign spies or international
agents known to be in England, with full address.
“That should be helpful, Watson,”
he remarked as we took our seats in the Woolwich train.
“We certainly owe Brother Mycroft a debt for
having introduced us to what promises to be a really
very remarkable case.”
His eager face still wore that expression
of intense and high-strung energy, which showed me
that some novel and suggestive circumstance had opened
up a stimulating line of thought. See the foxhound
with hanging ears and drooping tail as it lolls about
the kennels, and compare it with the same hound as,
with gleaming eyes and straining muscles, it runs
upon a breast-high scent such was the change
in Holmes since the morning. He was a different
man from the limp and lounging figure in the mouse-coloured
dressing-gown who had prowled so restlessly only a
few hours before round the fog-girt room.
“There is material here.
There is scope,” said he. “I am
dull indeed not to have understood its possibilities.”
“Even now they are dark to me.”
“The end is dark to me also,
but I have hold of one idea which may lead us far.
The man met his death elsewhere, and his body was
on the roof of a carriage.”
“On the roof!”
“Remarkable, is it not?
But consider the facts. Is it a coincidence
that it is found at the very point where the train
pitches and sways as it comes round on the points?
Is not that the place where an object upon the roof
might be expected to fall off? The points would
affect no object inside the train. Either the
body fell from the roof, or a very curious coincidence
has occurred. But now consider the question
of the blood. Of course, there was no bleeding
on the line if the body had bled elsewhere.
Each fact is suggestive in itself. Together they
have a cumulative force.”
“And the ticket, too!” I cried.
“Exactly. We could not
explain the absence of a ticket. This would
explain it. Everything fits together.”
“But suppose it were so, we
are still as far as ever from unravelling the mystery
of his death. Indeed, it becomes not simpler
“Perhaps,” said Holmes,
thoughtfully, “perhaps.” He relapsed
into a silent reverie, which lasted until the slow
train drew up at last in Woolwich Station. There
he called a cab and drew Mycroft’s paper from
“We have quite a little round
of afternoon calls to make,” said he. “I
think that Sir James Walter claims our first attention.”
The house of the famous official was
a fine villa with green lawns stretching down to the
Thames. As we reached it the fog was lifting,
and a thin, watery sunshine was breaking through.
A butler answered our ring.
“Sir James, sir!” said
he with solemn face. “Sir James died this
“Good heavens!” cried
Holmes in amazement. “How did he die?”
“Perhaps you would care to step
in, sir, and see his brother, Colonel Valentine?”
“Yes, we had best do so.”
We were ushered into a dim-lit drawing-room,
where an instant later we were joined by a very tall,
handsome, light-beared man of fifty, the younger brother
of the dead scientist. His wild eyes, stained
cheeks, and unkempt hair all spoke of the sudden blow
which had fallen upon the household. He was
hardly articulate as he spoke of it.
“It was this horrible scandal,”
said he. “My brother, Sir James, was a
man of very sensitive honour, and he could not survive
such an affair. It broke his heart. He
was always so proud of the efficiency of his department,
and this was a crushing blow.”
“We had hoped that he might
have given us some indications which would have helped
us to clear the matter up.”
“I assure you that it was all
a mystery to him as it is to you and to all of us.
He had already put all his knowledge at the disposal
of the police. Naturally he had no doubt that
Cadogan West was guilty. But all the rest was
“You cannot throw any new light upon the affair?”
“I know nothing myself save
what I have read or heard. I have no desire
to be discourteous, but you can understand, Mr. Holmes,
that we are much disturbed at present, and I must
ask you to hasten this interview to an end.”
“This is indeed an unexpected
development,” said my friend when we had regained
the cab. “I wonder if the death was natural,
or whether the poor old fellow killed himself!
If the latter, may it be taken as some sign of self-reproach
for duty neglected? We must leave that question
to the future. Now we shall turn to the Cadogan
A small but well-kept house in the
outskirts of the town sheltered the bereaved mother.
The old lady was too dazed with grief to be of any
use to us, but at her side was a white-faced young
lady, who introduced herself as Miss Violet Westbury,
the fiancee of the dead man, and the last to see him
upon that fatal night.
“I cannot explain it, Mr. Holmes,”
she said. “I have not shut an eye since
the tragedy, thinking, thinking, thinking, night and
day, what the true meaning of it can be. Arthur
was the most single-minded, chivalrous, patriotic
man upon earth. He would have cut his right hand
off before he would sell a State secret confided to
his keeping. It is absurd, impossible, preposterous
to anyone who knew him.”
“But the facts, Miss Westbury?”
“Yes, yes; I admit I cannot explain them.”
“Was he in any want of money?”
“No; his needs were very simple
and his salary ample. He had saved a few hundreds,
and we were to marry at the New Year.”
“No signs of any mental excitement?
Come, Miss Westbury, be absolutely frank with us.”
The quick eye of my companion had
noted some change in her manner. She coloured
“Yes,” she said at last,
“I had a feeling that there was something on
“Only for the last week or so.
He was thoughtful and worried. Once I pressed
him about it. He admitted that there was something,
and that it was concerned with his official life.
’It is too serious for me to speak about, even
to you,’ said he. I could get nothing more.”
Holmes looked grave.
“Go on, Miss Westbury.
Even if it seems to tell against him, go on.
We cannot say what it may lead to.”
“Indeed, I have nothing more
to tell. Once or twice it seemed to me that
he was on the point of telling me something.
He spoke one evening of the importance of the secret,
and I have some recollection that he said that no
doubt foreign spies would pay a great deal to have
My friend’s face grew graver still.
“He said that we were slack
about such matters that it would be easy
for a traitor to get the plans.”
“Was it only recently that he made such remarks?”
“Yes, quite recently.”
“Now tell us of that last evening.”
“We were to go to the theatre.
The fog was so thick that a cab was useless.
We walked, and our way took us close to the office.
Suddenly he darted away into the fog.”
“Without a word?”
“He gave an exclamation; that
was all. I waited but he never returned.
Then I walked home. Next morning, after the office
opened, they came to inquire. About twelve o’clock
we heard the terrible news. Oh, Mr. Holmes,
if you could only, only save his honour! It was
so much to him.”
Holmes shook his head sadly.
“Come, Watson,” said he,
“our ways lie elsewhere. Our next station
must be the office from which the papers were taken.
“It was black enough before
against this young man, but our inquiries make it
blacker,” he remarked as the cab lumbered off.
“His coming marriage gives a motive for the
crime. He naturally wanted money. The
idea was in his head, since he spoke about it.
He nearly made the girl an accomplice in the treason
by telling her his plans. It is all very bad.”
“But surely, Holmes, character
goes for something? Then, again, why should
he leave the girl in the street and dart away to commit
“Exactly! There are certainly
objections. But it is a formidable case which
they have to meet.”
Mr. Sidney Johnson, the senior clerk,
met us at the office and received us with that respect
which my companion’s card always commanded.
He was a thin, gruff, bespectacled man of middle
age, his cheeks haggard, and his hands twitching from
the nervous strain to which he had been subjected.
“It is bad, Mr. Holmes, very
bad! Have you heard of the death of the chief?”
“We have just come from his house.”
“The place is disorganized.
The chief dead, Cadogan West dead, our papers stolen.
And yet, when we closed our door on Monday evening,
we were as efficient an office as any in the government
service. Good God, it’s dreadful to think
of! That West, of all men, should have done
such a thing!”
“You are sure of his guilt, then?”
“I can see no other way out
of it. And yet I would have trusted him as I
“At what hour was the office closed on Monday?”
“Did you close it?”
“I am always the last man out.”
“Where were the plans?”
“In that safe. I put them there myself.”
“Is there no watchman to the building?”
“There is, but he has other
departments to look after as well. He is an old
soldier and a most trustworthy man. He saw nothing
that evening. Of course the fog was very thick.”
“Suppose that Cadogan West wished
to make his way into the building after hours; he
would need three keys, would he not, before he could
reach the papers?”
“Yes, he would. The key
of the outer door, the key of the office, and the
key of the safe.”
“Only Sir James Walter and you had those keys?”
“I had no keys of the doors only
of the safe.”
“Was Sir James a man who was orderly in his
“Yes, I think he was.
I know that so far as those three keys are concerned
he kept them on the same ring. I have often seen
“And that ring went with him to London?”
“He said so.”
“And your key never left your possession?”
“Then West, if he is the culprit,
must have had a duplicate. And yet none was
found upon his body. One other point: if
a clerk in this office desired to sell the plans,
would it not be simply to copy the plans for himself
than to take the originals, as was actually done?”
“It would take considerable
technical knowledge to copy the plans in an effective
“But I suppose either Sir James,
or you, or West has that technical knowledge?”
“No doubt we had, but I beg
you won’t try to drag me into the matter, Mr.
Holmes. What is the use of our speculating in
this way when the original plans were actually found
“Well, it is certainly singular
that he should run the risk of taking originals if
he could safely have taken copies, which would have
equally served his turn.”
“Singular, no doubt and yet he did
“Every inquiry in this case
reveals something inexplicable. Now there are
three papers still missing. They are, as I understand,
the vital ones.”
“Yes, that is so.”
“Do you mean to say that anyone
holding these three papers, and without the seven
others, could construct a Bruce-Partington submarine?”
“I reported to that effect to
the Admiralty. But to-day I have been over the
drawings again, and I am not so sure of it. The
double valves with the automatic self-adjusting slots
are drawn in one of the papers which have been returned.
Until the foreigners had invented that for themselves
they could not make the boat. Of course they
might soon get over the difficulty.”
“But the three missing drawings are the most
“I think, with your permission,
I will now take a stroll round the premises.
I do not recall any other question which I desired
He examined the lock of the safe,
the door of the room, and finally the iron shutters
of the window. It was only when we were on the
lawn outside that his interest was strongly excited.
There was a laurel bush outside the window, and several
of the branches bore signs of having been twisted
or snapped. He examined them carefully with his
lens, and then some dim and vague marks upon the earth
beneath. Finally he asked the chief clerk to
close the iron shutters, and he pointed out to me
that they hardly met in the centre, and that it would
be possible for anyone outside to see what was going
on within the room.
“The indications are ruined
by three days’ delay. They may mean something
or nothing. Well, Watson, I do not think that
Woolwich can help us further. It is a small
crop which we have gathered. Let us see if we
can do better in London.”
Yet we added one more sheaf to our
harvest before we left Woolwich Station. The
clerk in the ticket office was able to say with confidence
that he saw Cadogan West whom he knew well
by sight upon the Monday night, and that
he went to London by the 8:15 to London Bridge.
He was alone and took a single third-class ticket.
The clerk was struck at the time by his excited and
nervous manner. So shaky was he that he could
hardly pick up his change, and the clerk had helped
him with it. A reference to the timetable showed
that the 8:15 was the first train which it was possible
for West to take after he had left the lady about
“Let us reconstruct, Watson,”
said Holmes after half an hour of silence. “I
am not aware that in all our joint researches we have
ever had a case which was more difficult to get at.
Every fresh advance which we make only reveals a
fresh ridge beyond. And yet we have surely made
some appreciable progress.
“The effect of our inquiries
at Woolwich has in the main been against young Cadogan
West; but the indications at the window would lend
themselves to a more favourable hypothesis. Let
us suppose, for example, that he had been approached
by some foreign agent. It might have been done
under such pledges as would have prevented him from
speaking of it, and yet would have affected his thoughts
in the direction indicated by his remarks to his fiancee.
Very good. We will now suppose that as he went
to the theatre with the young lady he suddenly, in
the fog, caught a glimpse of this same agent going
in the direction of the office. He was an impetuous
man, quick in his decisions. Everything gave
way to his duty. He followed the man, reached
the window, saw the abstraction of the documents, and
pursued the thief. In this way we get over the
objection that no one would take originals when he
could make copies. This outsider had to take
originals. So far it holds together.”
“What is the next step?”
“Then we come into difficulties.
One would imagine that under such circumstances the
first act of young Cadogan West would be to seize the
villain and raise the alarm. Why did he not do
so? Could it have been an official superior who
took the papers? That would explain West’s
conduct. Or could the chief have given West the
slip in the fog, and West started at once to London
to head him off from his own rooms, presuming that
he knew where the rooms were? The call must have
been very pressing, since he left his girl standing
in the fog and made no effort to communicate with
her. Our scent runs cold here, and there is
a vast gap between either hypothesis and the laying
of West’s body, with seven papers in his pocket,
on the roof of a Metropolitan train. My instinct
now is to work form the other end. If Mycroft
has given us the list of addresses we may be able
to pick our man and follow two tracks instead of one.”
Surely enough, a note awaited us at
Baker Street. A government messenger had brought
it post-haste. Holmes glanced at it and threw
it over to me.
There are numerous small fry, but
few who would handle so big an affair. The only
men worth considering are Adolph Mayer, of 13 Great
George Street, Westminster; Louis La Rothiere, of Campden
Mansions, Notting Hill; and Hugo Oberstein, 13 Caulfield
Gardens, Kensington. The latter was known to
be in town on Monday and is now reported as having
left. Glad to hear you have seen some light.
The Cabinet awaits your final report with the utmost
anxiety. Urgent representations have arrived
from the very highest quarter. The whole force
of the State is at your back if you should need it.
“I’m afraid,” said
Holmes, smiling, “that all the queen’s
horses and all the queen’s men cannot avail
in this matter.” He had spread out his
big map of London and leaned eagerly over it.
“Well, well,” said he presently with an
exclamation of satisfaction, “things are turning
a little in our direction at last. Why, Watson,
I do honestly believe that we are going to pull it
off, after all.” He slapped me on the
shoulder with a sudden burst of hilarity. “I
am going out now. It is only a reconnaissance.
I will do nothing serious without my trusted comrade
and biographer at my elbow. Do you stay here,
and the odds are that you will see me again in an
hour or two. If time hangs heavy get foolscap
and a pen, and begin your narrative of how we saved
I felt some reflection of his elation
in my own mind, for I knew well that he would not
depart so far from his usual austerity of demeanour
unless there was good cause for exultation. All
the long November evening I waited, filled with impatience
for his return. At last, shortly after nine
o’clock, there arrived a messenger with a note:
Am dining at Goldini’s Restaurant,
Gloucester Road, Kensington. Please come at once
and join me there. Bring with you a jemmy, a
dark lantern, a chisel, and a revolver.
It was a nice equipment for a respectable
citizen to carry through the dim, fog-draped streets.
I stowed them all discreetly away in my overcoat
and drove straight to the address given. There
sat my friend at a little round table near the door
of the garish Italian restaurant.
“Have you had something to eat?
Then join me in a coffee and curaçao. Try
one of the proprietor’s cigars. They are
less poisonous than one would expect. Have you
“They are here, in my overcoat.”
“Excellent. Let me give
you a short sketch of what I have done, with some
indication of what we are about to do. Now it
must be evident to you, Watson, that this young man’s
body was placed on the roof of the train.
That was clear from the instant that I determined
the fact that it was from the roof, and not from a
carriage, that he had fallen.”
“Could it not have been dropped from a bridge?”
“I should say it was impossible.
If you examine the roofs you will find that they
are slightly rounded, and there is no railing round
them. Therefore, we can say for certain that
young Cadogan West was placed on it.”
“How could he be placed there?”
“That was the question which
we had to answer. There is only one possible
way. You are aware that the Underground runs
clear of tunnels at some points in the West End.
I had a vague memory that as I have travelled by
it I have occasionally seen windows just above my head.
Now, suppose that a train halted under such a window,
would there be any difficulty in laying a body upon
“It seems most improbable.”
“We must fall back upon the
old axiom that when all other contingencies fail,
whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.
Here all other contingencies have failed.
When I found that the leading international agent,
who had just left London, lived in a row of houses
which abutted upon the Underground, I was so pleased
that you were a little astonished at my sudden frivolity.”
“Oh, that was it, was it?”
“Yes, that was it. Mr.
Hugo Oberstein, of 13 Caulfield Gardens, had become
my objective. I began my operations at Gloucester
Road Station, where a very helpful official walked
with me along the track and allowed me to satisfy
myself not only that the back-stair windows of Caulfield
Gardens open on the line but the even more essential
fact that, owing to the intersection of one of the
larger railways, the Underground trains are frequently
held motionless for some minutes at that very spot.”
“Splendid, Holmes! You have got it!”
“So far so far, Watson.
We advance, but the goal is afar. Well, having
seen the back of Caulfield Gardens, I visited the front
and satisfied myself that the bird was indeed flown.
It is a considerable house, unfurnished, so far as
I could judge, in the upper rooms. Oberstein
lived there with a single valet, who was probably a
confederate entirely in his confidence. We must
bear in mind that Oberstein has gone to the Continent
to dispose of his booty, but not with any idea of
flight; for he had no reason to fear a warrant, and
the idea of an amateur domiciliary visit would certainly
never occur to him. Yet that is precisely what
we are about to make.”
“Could we not get a warrant and legalize it?”
“Hardly on the evidence.”
“What can we hope to do?”
“We cannot tell what correspondence may be there.”
“I don’t like it, Holmes.”
“My dear fellow, you shall keep
watch in the street. I’ll do the criminal
part. It’s not a time to stick at trifles.
Think of Mycroft’s note, of the Admiralty,
the Cabinet, the exalted person who waits for news.
We are bound to go.”
My answer was to rise from the table.
“You are right, Holmes. We are bound to
He sprang up and shook me by the hand.
“I knew you would not shrink
at the last,” said he, and for a moment I saw
something in his eyes which was nearer to tenderness
than I had ever seen. The next instant he was
his masterful, practical self once more.
“It is nearly half a mile, but
there is no hurry. Let us walk,” said
he. “Don’t drop the instruments,
I beg. Your arrest as a suspicious character
would be a most unfortunate complication.”
Caulfield Gardens was one of those
lines of flat-faced pillared, and porticoed houses
which are so prominent a product of the middle Victorian
epoch in the West End of London. Next door there
appeared to be a children’s party, for the merry
buzz of young voices and the clatter of a piano resounded
through the night. The fog still hung about
and screened us with its friendly shade. Holmes
had lit his lantern and flashed it upon the massive
“This is a serious proposition,”
said he. “It is certainly bolted as well
as locked. We would do better in the area.
There is an excellent archway down yonder in case
a too zealous policeman should intrude. Give
me a hand, Watson, and I’ll do the same for you.”
A minute later we were both in the
area. Hardly had we reached the dark shadows
before the step of the policeman was heard in the fog
above. As its soft rhythm died away, Holmes set
to work upon the lower door. I saw him stoop
and strain until with a sharp crash it flew open.
We sprang through into the dark passage, closing the
area door behind us. Holmes let the way up the
curving, uncarpeted stair. His little fan of
yellow light shone upon a low window.
“Here we are, Watson this
must be the one.” He threw it open, and
as he did so there was a low, harsh murmur, growing
steadily into a loud roar as a train dashed past us
in the darkness. Holmes swept his light along
the window-sill. It was thickly coated with soot
from the passing engines, but the black surface was
blurred and rubbed in places.
“You can see where they rested
the body. Halloa, Watson! what is this?
There can be no doubt that it is a blood mark.”
He was pointing to faint discolourations along the
woodwork of the window. “Here it is on
the stone of the stair also. The demonstration
is complete. Let us stay here until a train
We had not long to wait. The
very next train roared from the tunnel as before,
but slowed in the open, and then, with a creaking of
brakes, pulled up immediately beneath us. It
was not four feet from the window-ledge to the roof
of the carriages. Holmes softly closed the window.
“So far we are justified,”
said he. “What do you think of it, Watson?”
“A masterpiece. You have
never risen to a greater height.”
“I cannot agree with you there.
From the moment that I conceived the idea of the
body being upon the roof, which surely was not a very
abstruse one, all the rest was inevitable. If
it were not for the grave interests involved the affair
up to this point would be insignificant. Our
difficulties are still before us. But perhaps
we may find something here which may help us.”
We had ascended the kitchen stair
and entered the suite of rooms upon the first floor.
One was a dining-room, severely furnished and containing
nothing of interest. A second was a bedroom,
which also drew blank. The remaining room appeared
more promising, and my companion settled down to a
systematic examination. It was littered with
books and papers, and was evidently used as a study.
Swiftly and methodically Holmes turned over the contents
of drawer after drawer and cupboard after cupboard,
but no gleam of success came to brighten his austere
face. At the end of an hour he was no further
than when he started.
“The cunning dog has covered
his tracks,” said he. “He has left
nothing to incriminate him. His dangerous correspondence
has been destroyed or removed. This is our last
It was a small tin cash-box which
stood upon the writing-desk. Holmes pried it
open with his chisel. Several rolls of paper
were within, covered with figures and calculations,
without any note to show to what they referred.
The recurring words, “water pressure”
and “pressure to the square inch” suggested
some possible relation to a submarine. Holmes
tossed them all impatiently aside. There only
remained an envelope with some small newspaper slips
inside it. He shook them out on the table, and
at once I saw by his eager face that his hopes had
“What’s this, Watson?
Eh? What’s this? Record of a series
of messages in the advertisements of a paper.
Daily Telegraph agony column by the print and paper.
Right-hand top corner of a page. No dates but
messages arrange themselves. This must be the
“Hoped to hear sooner.
Terms agreed to. Write fully to address given
“Too complex for description.
Must have full report, Stuff awaits you when goods
“Matter presses. Must
withdraw offer unless contract completed. Make
appointment by letter. Will confirm by advertisement.
“Monday night after nine.
Two taps. Only ourselves. Do not be so
suspicious. Payment in hard cash when goods delivered.
“A fairly complete record, Watson!
If we could only get at the man at the other end!”
He sat lost in thought, tapping his fingers on the
table. Finally he sprang to his feet.
“Well, perhaps it won’t
be so difficult, after all. There is nothing
more to be done here, Watson. I think we might
drive round to the offices of the Daily Telegraph,
and so bring a good day’s work to a conclusion.”
Mycroft Holmes and Lestrade had come
round by appointment after breakfast next day and
Sherlock Holmes had recounted to them our proceedings
of the day before. The professional shook his
head over our confessed burglary.
“We can’t do these things
in the force, Mr. Holmes,” said he. “No
wonder you get results that are beyond us. But
some of these days you’ll go too far, and you’ll
find yourself and your friend in trouble.”
“For England, home and beauty eh,
Watson? Martyrs on the altar of our country.
But what do you think of it, Mycroft?”
Admirable! But what use will you make of it?”
Holmes picked up the Daily Telegraph
which lay upon the table.
“Have you seen Pierrot’s advertisement
“What? Another one?”
“Yes, here it is:
“To-night. Same hour.
Same place. Two taps. Most vitally important.
Your own safety at stake.
“By George!” cried Lestrade. “If
he answers that we’ve got him!”
“That was my idea when I put
it in. I think if you could both make it convenient
to come with us about eight o’clock to Caulfield
Gardens we might possibly get a little nearer to a
One of the most remarkable characteristics
of Sherlock Holmes was his power of throwing his brain
out of action and switching all his thoughts on to
lighter things whenever he had convinced himself that
he could no longer work to advantage. I remember
that during the whole of that memorable day he lost
himself in a monograph which he had undertaken upon
the Polyphonic Motets of Lassus. For my
own part I had none of this power of detachment, and
the day, in consequence, appeared to be interminable.
The great national importance of the issue, the suspense
in high quarters, the direct nature of the experiment
which we were trying all combined to work
upon my nerve. It was a relief to me when at
last, after a light dinner, we set out upon our expedition.
Lestrade and Mycroft met us by appointment at the outside
of Gloucester Road Station. The area door of
Oberstein’s house had been left open the night
before, and it was necessary for me, as Mycroft Holmes
absolutely and indignantly declined to climb the railings,
to pass in and open the hall door. By nine o’clock
we were all seated in the study, waiting patently
for our man.
An hour passed and yet another.
When eleven struck, the measured beat of the great
church clock seemed to sound the dirge of our hopes.
Lestrade and Mycroft were fidgeting in their seats
and looking twice a minute at their watches.
Holmes sat silent and composed, his eyelids half
shut, but every sense on the alert. He raised
his head with a sudden jerk.
“He is coming,” said he.
There had been a furtive step past
the door. Now it returned. We heard a shuffling
sound outside, and then two sharp taps with the knocker.
Holmes rose, motioning us to remain seated. The
gas in the hall was a mere point of light. He
opened the outer door, and then as a dark figure slipped
past him he closed and fastened it. “This
way!” we heard him say, and a moment later our
man stood before us. Holmes had followed him
closely, and as the man turned with a cry of surprise
and alarm he caught him by the collar and threw him
back into the room. Before our prisoner had recovered
his balance the door was shut and Holmes standing
with his back against it. The man glared round
him, staggered, and fell senseless upon the floor.
With the shock, his broad-brimmed hat flew from his
head, his cravat slipped sown from his lips, and there
were the long light beard and the soft, handsome delicate
features of Colonel Valentine Walter.
Holmes gave a whistle of surprise.
“You can write me down an ass
this time, Watson,” said he. “This
was not the bird that I was looking for.”
“Who is he?” asked Mycroft eagerly.
“The younger brother of the
late Sir James Walter, the head of the Submarine Department.
Yes, yes; I see the fall of the cards. He is
coming to. I think that you had best leave his
examination to me.”
We had carried the prostrate body
to the sofa. Now our prisoner sat up, looked
round him with a horror-stricken face, and passed his
hand over his forehead, like one who cannot believe
his own senses.
“What is this?” he asked.
“I came here to visit Mr. Oberstein.”
“Everything is known, Colonel
Walter,” said Holmes. “How an English
gentleman could behave in such a manner is beyond my
comprehension. But your whole correspondence
and relations with Oberstein are within our knowledge.
So also are the circumstances connected with the death
of young Cadogan West. Let me advise you to gain
at least the small credit for repentance and confession,
since there are still some details which we can only
learn from your lips.”
The man groaned and sank his face
in his hands. We waited, but he was silent.
“I can assure you,” said
Holmes, “that every essential is already known.
We know that you were pressed for money; that you
took an impress of the keys which your brother held;
and that you entered into a correspondence with Oberstein,
who answered your letters through the advertisement
columns of the Daily Telegraph. We are aware
that you went down to the office in the fog on Monday
night, but that you were seen and followed by young
Cadogan West, who had probably some previous reason
to suspect you. He saw your theft, but could
not give the alarm, as it was just possible that you
were taking the papers to your brother in London.
Leaving all his private concerns, like the good citizen
that he was, he followed you closely in the fog and
kept at your heels until you reached this very house.
There he intervened, and then it was, Colonel Walter,
that to treason you added the more terrible crime
“I did not! I did not!
Before God I swear that I did not!” cried our
“Tell us, then, how Cadogan
West met his end before you laid him upon the roof
of a railway carriage.”
“I will. I swear to you
that I will. I did the rest. I confess
it. It was just as you say. A Stock Exchange
debt had to be paid. I needed the money badly.
Oberstein offered me five thousand. It was to
save myself from ruin. But as to murder, I am
as innocent as you.”
“What happened, then?”
“He had his suspicions before,
and he followed me as you describe. I never
knew it until I was at the very door. It was
thick fog, and one could not see three yards.
I had given two taps and Oberstein had come to the
door. The young man rushed up and demanded to
know what we were about to do with the papers.
Oberstein had a short life-preserver. He always
carried it with him. As West forced his way after
us into the house Oberstein struck him on the head.
The blow was a fatal one. He was dead within
five minutes. There he lay in the hall, and we
were at our wit’s end what to do. Then
Oberstein had this idea about the trains which halted
under his back window. But first he examined
the papers which I had brought. He said that
three of them were essential, and that he must keep
them. ‘You cannot keep them,’ said
I. ’There will be a dreadful row at Woolwich
if they are not returned.’ ’I must
keep them,’ said he, ’for they are so technical
that it is impossible in the time to make copies.’
’Then they must all go back together to-night,’
said I. He thought for a little, and then he cried
out that he had it. ‘Three I will keep,’
said he. ’The others we will stuff into
the pocket of this young man. When he is found
the whole business will assuredly be put to his account.’
I could see no other way out of it, so we did as
he suggested. We waited half an hour at the window
before a train stopped. It was so thick that
nothing could be seen, and we had no difficulty in
lowering West’s body on to the train. That
was the end of the matter so far as I was concerned.”
“And your brother?”
“He said nothing, but he had
caught me once with his keys, and I think that he
suspected. I read in his eyes that he suspected.
As you know, he never held up his head again.”
There was silence in the room.
It was broken by Mycroft Holmes.
“Can you not make reparation?
It would ease your conscience, and possibly your
“What reparation can I make?”
“Where is Oberstein with the papers?”
“I do not know.”
“Did he give you no address?”
“He said that letters to the
Hotel du Louvre, Paris, would eventually reach him.”
“Then reparation is still within your power,”
said Sherlock Holmes.
“I will do anything I can.
I owe this fellow no particular good-will. He
has been my ruin and my downfall.”
“Here are paper and pen.
Sit at this desk and write to my dictation.
Direct the envelope to the address given. That
is right. Now the letter:
“With regard to our transaction,
you will no doubt have observed by now that one essential
detail is missing. I have a tracing which will
make it complete. This has involved me in extra
trouble, however, and I must ask you for a further
advance of five hundred pounds. I will not trust
it to the post, nor will I take anything but gold or
notes. I would come to you abroad, but it would
excite remark if I left the country at present.
Therefore I shall expect to meet you in the smoking-room
of the Charing Cross Hotel at noon on Saturday.
Remember that only English notes, or gold, will be
“That will do very well.
I shall be very much surprised if it does not fetch
And it did! It is a matter of
history that secret history of a nation
which is often so much more intimate and interesting
than its public chronicles that Oberstein,
eager to complete the coup of his lifetime, came to
the lure and was safely engulfed for fifteen years
in a British prison. In his trunk were found
the invaluable Bruce-Partington plans, which he had
put up for auction in all the naval centres of Europe.
Colonel Walter died in prison towards
the end of the second year of his sentence.
As to Holmes, he returned refreshed to his monograph
upon the Polyphonic Motets of Lassus, which has
since been printed for private circulation, and is
said by experts to be the last word upon the subject.
Some weeks afterwards I learned incidentally that
my friend spent a day at Windsor, whence he returned
with a remarkably fine emerald tie-pin. When
I asked him if he had bought it, he answered that
it was a present from a certain gracious lady in whose
interests he had once been fortunate enough to carry
out a small commission. He said no more; but
I fancy that I could guess at that lady’s august
name, and I have little doubt that the emerald pin
will forever recall to my friend’s memory the
adventure of the Bruce-Partington plans.