Chapter 2-Sherlock Holmes Discourses
"Remarkable!" said he. "Remarkable!"
"You don't seem surprised."
"Interested, Mr. Mac, but hardly surprised. Why should I be surprised? I receive
an anonymous communication
from a quarter
which I know to be important, warning
me that danger threatens a certain
person. Within an hour I learn that this danger has actually
materialized and that the person is dead. I am interested
; but, as you observe
, I am not surprised."
In a few short sentences he explained to the inspector
the facts about the letter and the cipher
. MacDonald sat with his chin on his hands and his great sandy eyebrows bunched into a yellow tangle
"I was going down to Birlstone this morning," said he. "I had come to ask you if you cared to come with me-you and your friend here. But from what you say we might
perhaps be doing better work in London."
"I rather think not," said Holmes.
"Hang it all, Mr. Holmes!" cried the inspector
. "The papers will be full of the Birlstone mystery
in a day or two; but where's the mystery
if there is a man in London who prophesied the crime before ever it occurred? We have only to lay our hands on that man, and the rest will follow."
, Mr. Mac. But how do you propose
to lay your hands on the so-called
MacDonald turned over the letter which Holmes had handed him. "Posted in Camberwell-that doesn't help us much. Name, you say, is assumed. Not much to go on, certainly
. Didn't you say that you have sent him money?"
"In notes to Camberwell post office
"Did you ever trouble to see who called for them?"
looked surprised and a little shocked. "Why not?"
"Because I always keep faith
. I had promised when he first wrote that I would not try to trace
"You think there is someone behind him?"
"I know there is."
that I've heard you mention
Inspector MacDonald smiled, and his eyelid quivered as he glanced towards me. "I won't conceal
from you, Mr. Holmes, that we think in the C.I.D. that you have a wee bit of a bee in your bonnet
over this professor
. I made some inquiries myself about the matter
. He seems to be a very respectable
, and talented sort of man."
"I'm glad you've got so far as to recognize
"Man, you can't but recognize
it! After I heard your view I made it my business to see him. I had a chat
with him on eclipses. How the talk got that way I canna think; but he had out a reflector lantern
and a globe
, and made it all clear in a minute
. He lent me a book; but I don't mind
saying that it was a bit above my head, though I had a good Aberdeen upbringing
. He'd have made a grand meenister with his thin
face and gray hair and solemn-like way of talking. When he put his hand on my shoulder as we were parting, it was like a father's blessing before you go out into the cold, cruel
Holmes chuckled and rubbed his hands. "Great!" he said. "Great! Tell me, Friend MacDonald, this pleasing and touching interview
was, I suppose
, in the professor
"A fine room, is it not?"
"Very fine-very handsome
indeed, Mr. Holmes."
"You sat in front of his writing desk?"
"Sun in your eyes and his face in the shadow
"Well, it was evening; but I mind
that the lamp was turned on my face."
"It would be. Did you happen to observe
a picture over the professor
"I don't miss much, Mr. Holmes. Maybe I learned
that from you. Yes, I saw the picture-a young woman with her head on her hands, peeping at you sideways."
"That painting was by Jean Baptiste Greuze."
endeavoured to look interested
"Jean Baptiste Greuze," Holmes continued, joining his finger tips and leaning well back in his chair, "was a French artist who flourished between the years 1750 and 1800. I allude
, of course to his working career
. Modern criticism
has more than indorsed the high opinion
formed of him by his contemporaries."
's eyes grew abstracted. "Hadn't we better-" he said.
"We are doing so," Holmes interrupted. "All that I am saying has a very direct and vital bearing
upon what you have called the Birlstone Mystery. In fact
, it may in a sense be called the very centre of it."
MacDonald smiled feebly, and looked appealingly to me. "Your thoughts move a bit too quick for me, Mr. Holmes. You leave out a link
or two, and I can't get over the gap
. What in the whole wide world can be the connection
between this dead painting man and the affair
"Then how could he buy-"
"Quite so! How could he?"
"Ay, that's ," said the inspector
thoughtfully. "Talk away, Mr. Holmes. I'm just loving it. It's fine!"
Holmes smiled. He was always warmed by genuine
of the real artist. "What about Birlstone?" he asked.
"We've time yet," said the inspector
, glancing at his watch. "I've a cab at the door, and it won't take us twenty minutes to Victoria. But about this picture: I thought
you told me once, Mr. Holmes, that you had never met Professor Moriarty."
"No, I never have."
"Then how do you know about his rooms?"
"Ah, that's another matter
. I have been three times in his rooms, twice waiting for him under different
pretexts and leaving before he came. Once-well, I can hardly tell about the once to an official detective
. It was on the last occasion
that I took the liberty
of running over his papers-with the most unexpected results."
"You found something compromising?"
"Absolutely nothing. That was what amazed
me. However, you have now seen the point of the picture. It shows him to be a very wealthy
man. How did he acquire wealth
? He is unmarried. His younger brother is a station master
in the west of England. His chair is worth seven hundred a year. And he owns a Greuze."
"Surely the inference
"Well, Mr. Holmes, I admit
that what you say is interesting: it's more than interesting-it's just wonderful
. But let us have it a little clearer if you can. Is it forgery
, coining, burglary-where does the money come from?"
"Have you ever read of Jonathan Wild?"
"Well, the name has a familiar sound
. Someone in a novel
, was he not? I don't take much stock
of detectives in novels-chaps that do things and never let you see how they do them. That's just inspiration
: not business."
"Jonathan Wild wasn't a detective
, and he wasn't in a novel
. He was a master criminal
, and he lived last century
-1750 or thereabouts."
"Then he's no use to me. I'm a practical
"Mr. Mac, the most practical
thing that you ever did in your life would be to shut yourself up for three months and read twelve hours a day at the annals
of crime. Everything comes in circles-even Professor Moriarty. Jonathan Wild was the hidden force
of the London criminals, to whom he sold his brains and his organization
on a fifteen per cent. commission
. The old wheel turns, and the same spoke
comes up. It's all been done before, and will be again. I'll tell you one or two things about Moriarty which may interest
"I happen to know who is the first link
in his chain-a chain with this Napoleon-gone-wrong at one end, and a hundred broken fighting men, pickpockets, blackmailers, and card sharpers at the other, with every sort of crime in between. His chief of staff
is Colonel Sebastian Moran, as aloof
to the law as himself. What do you think he pays him?"
"I'd like to hear."
"Six thousand a year. That's paying for brains, you see-the American business principle
. I learned
that detail quite by chance. It's more than the Prime Minister gets. That gives you an idea of Moriarty's gains and of the scale
on which he works. Another point: I made it my business to hunt down some of Moriarty's checks lately-just common innocent
checks that he pays his household
bills with. They were drawn on six different
banks. Does that make any impression
on your mind
! But what do you gather
"That he wanted no gossip
about his wealth
. No single man should know what he had. I have no doubt
that he has twenty banking accounts; the bulk
of his fortune abroad
in the Deutsche Bank or the Credit Lyonnais as likely
as not. Sometime when you have a year or two to spare
to you the study
of Professor Moriarty."
"We may form some conception
as to the motives of the crime. It is, as I gather
from your original
remarks, an inexplicable
, or at least an unexplained, murder
. Now, presuming that the source
of the crime is as we suspect
it to be, there might
be two different
motives. In the first place, I may tell you that Moriarty rules with a rod of iron
over his people. His discipline
. There is only one punishment
in his code
. It is death. Now we might suppose
that this murdered man-this Douglas whose approaching fate
was known by one of the arch-criminal
's subordinates-had in some way betrayed the chief. His punishment
followed, and would be known to all-if only to put the fear of death into them."
"Well, that is one suggestion
, Mr. Holmes."
"The other is that it has been engineered by Moriarty in the ordinary
course of business. Was there any robbery?"
"I have not heard."
"If so, it would, of course, be against the first hypothesis
and in favour of the second. Moriarty may have been engaged
it on a promise
of part spoils, or he may have been paid so much down to manage
it. Either is possible
. But whichever it may be, or if it is some third combination
, it is down at Birlstone that we must seek
. I know our man too well to suppose
that he has left anything up here which may lead us to him."
"Then to Birlstone we must go!" cried MacDonald, jumping from his chair. "My word! it's later than I thought
. I can give you, gentlemen, five minutes for preparation
, and that is all."
for us both," said Holmes, as he sprang up and hastened to change from his dressing gown to his coat. "While we are on our way, Mr. Mac, I will ask you to be good enough to tell me all about it."
"All about it" proved to be disappointingly little, and yet there was enough to assure
us that the case before us might
well be worthy
of the expert
's closest attention
. He brightened and rubbed his thin
hands together as he listened to the meagre but details. A long series
weeks lay behind us, and here at last there was a fitting object
for those powers which, like all special
gifts, become irksome
to their owner when they are not in use. That razor brain
blunted and rusted with inaction.
Sherlock Holmes's eyes glistened, his pale
cheeks took a warmer hue
, and his whole eager
face shone with an inward light when the call for work reached him. Leaning forward
in the cab, he listened intently
to MacDonald's short sketch
of the problem
which awaited us in Sussex. The inspector
was himself dependent
, as he explained to us, upon a scribbled account
forwarded to him by the milk train
in the early hours of the morning. White Mason, the local
officer, was a personal
friend, and hence
MacDonald had been notified much more promptly
than is usual at Scotland Yard when provincials need
. It is a very cold scent
upon which the Metropolitan expert
is generally asked to run.
"DEAR INSPECTOR MACDONALD [said the letter which he read to us]:
for your services is in separate envelope
. This is for your private
eye. Wire me what train
in the morning you can get for Birlstone, and I will meet it-or have it met if I am too occupied. This case is a snorter. Don't waste
in getting started. If you can bring Mr. Holmes, please do so; for he will find something after his own heart
. We would think the whole had been fixed up for theatrical effect
if there wasn't a dead man in the middle of it. My word! it IS a snorter."
"Your friend seems to be no fool," remarked Holmes.
"No, sir, White Mason is a very live man, if I am any judge."
"Well, have you anything more?"
"Only that he will give us every detail when we meet."
"Then how did you get at Mr. Douglas and the fact
that he had been horribly murdered?"
"That was in the inclosed official report
. It didn't say 'horrible
': that's not a recognized official term
. It gave the name John Douglas. It mentioned that his injuries had been in the head, from the discharge
of a shotgun. It also mentioned the hour of the alarm
, which was close on to midnight last night. It added that the case was undoubtedly
one of murder
, but that no arrest
had been made, and that the case was one which presented some very perplexing
and features. That's absolutely
all we have at present, Mr. Holmes."