Sir Arthur Conan Doyle: His Last Bow (1917)
His Last Bow
An Epilogue of Sherlock Holmes
It was nine o'clock at night upon the second of August -- the most terrible
August in the history of the world. One might have thought already that
God's curse hung heavy over a degenerate world, for there was an awesome
hush and a feeling of vague expectancy in the sultry and stagnant air. The
sun had long set, but one blood-red gash like an open wound lay low in the
distant west. Above, the stars were shining brightly, and below, the lights of
the shipping glimmered in the bay. The two famous Germans stood beside
the stone parapet of the garden walk, with the long, low, heavily gabled
house behind them, and they looked down upon the broad sweep of the
beach at the foot of the great chalk cliff on which Von Bork, like some
wandering eagle, had perched himself four years before. They stood with
their heads close together, talking in low, confidential tones. From below the
two glowing ends of their cigars might have been the smouldering eyes of
some malignant fiend looking down in the darkness.
A remarkable man this Von Bork -- a man who could hardly be matched
among all the devoted agents of the Kaiser. It was his talents which had
first recommended him for the English mission, the most important mission
of all, but since he had taken it over those talents had become more and
more manifest to the half-dozen people in the world who were really in
touch with the truth. One of these was his present companion, Baron Von
Herling, the chief secretary of the legation, whose huge lOO-horse-power
Benz car was blocking the country lane as it waited to waft its owner back
"So far as I can judge the trend of events, you will probably be back in
Berlin within the week," the secretary was saying. "When you get there, my
dear Von Bork, I think you will be surprised at the welcome you will receive.
I happen to know what is thought in the highest quarters of your work in this
country." He was a huge man, the secretary, deep, broad, and tall, with a
slow, heavy fashion of speech which had been his main asset in his political
Von Bork laughed.
"They are not very hard to deceive," he remarked. "A more docile, simple
folk could not be imagined."
"I don't know about that," said the other thoughtfully. "They have strange
limits and one must learn to observe them. It is that surface simplicity of
theirs which makes a trap for the stranger. One's first impression is that
they are entirely soft. Then one comes suddenly upon something very hard,
and you know that you have reached the limit and must adapt yourself to
the fact. They have, for example, their insular conventions which simply
must be observed."
"Meaning, 'good form' and that sort of thing?" Von Bork sighed as one who
had suffered much.
"Meaning British prejudice in all its queer manifestations. As an example I
may quote one of my own worst blunders -- I can afford to talk of my
blunders, for you know my work well enough to be aware of my successes.
It was on my first arrival. I was invited to a week-end gathering at the
country house of a cabinet minister. The conversation was amazingly
Von Bork nodded. "I've been there," said he dryly.
"Exactly. Well, I naturally sent a resume of the information to Berlin.
Unfortunately our good chancellor is a little heavy-handed in these matters,
and he transmitted a remark which showed that he was aware of what had
been said. This, of course, took the trail straight up to me. You've no idea
the harm that it did me. There was nothing soft about our British hosts on
that occasion, I can assure you. I was two years living it down. Now you, with
this sporting pose of yours --"
"No, no, don't call it a pose. A pose is an artificial thing. This is quite
natural. I am a born sportsman. I enjoy it."
"Well, that makes it the more effective. You yacht against them, you hunt
with them, you play polo, you match them in every game, your four-
inhand takes the prize at Olympia. I have even heard that you go the length
of boxing with the young officers. What is the result? Nobody takes you
seriously. You are a 'good old sport,' 'quite a decent fellow for a German,'
a hard-drinking, night-club, knock-about-town, devil-may-care young fellow.
And all the time this quiet country house of yours is the centre of half the
mischief in England, and the sporting squire the most astute secret-service
man in Europe. Genius, my dear Von Bork—genius!"
"You flatter me, Baron. But certainly I may claim that my four years in this
country have not been unproductive. I've never shown you my little store.
Would you mind stepping in for a moment?"
The door of the study opened straight on to the terrace. Von Bork pushed it
back, and, leading the way, he clicked the switch of the electric light. He
then closed the door behind the bulky form which followed him and carefully
adjusted the heavy curtain over the latticed window. Only when all these
precautions had been taken and tested did he turn his sunburned aquiline
face to his guest.
"Some of my papers have gone," said he. "When my wife and the household
left yesterday for Flushing they took the less important with them. I must, of
course, claim the protection of the embassy for the others."
"Your name has already been filed as one of the personal suite. There will
be no difficulties for you or your baggage. Of course, it is just possible
that we may not have to go. England may leave France to her fate. We are sure
that there is no binding treaty between them."
"Yes, and Belgium, too."
Von Bork shook his head. "I don't see how that could be. There is a definite
treaty there. She could never recover from such a humiliation."
"She would at least have peace for the moment."
"But her honour?"
"Tut, my dear sir, we live in a utilitarian age. Honour is a mediaeval
conception. Besides England is not ready. It is an inconceivable thing, but
even our special war tax of fifty million, which one would think made our
purpose as clear as if we had advertised it on the front page of the Times,
has not roused these people from their slumbers. Here and there one hears a
question. It is my business to find an answer. Here and there also there is an
irritation. It is my business to soothe it. But I can assure you that so far
as the essentials go -- the storage of munitions, the preparation for
submarine attack, the arrangements for making high explosives -- nothing is
prepared. How, then, can England come in, especially when we have stirred
her up such a devil's brew of Irish civil war, window-breaking Furies, and God
knows what to keep her thoughts at home."
"She must think of her future."
"Ah, that is another matter. I fancy that in the future we have our own very
definite plans about England, and that your information will be very vital to
us. It is to-day or to-morrow with Mr. John Bull. If he prefers to-day we are
perfectly ready. If it is to-morrow we shall be more ready still. I should
think they would be wiser to fight with allies than without them, but that is
their own affair. This week is their week of destiny. But you were speaking
of your papers." He sat in the armchair with the light shining upon his broad
bald head, while he puffed sedately at his cigar.
The large oak-panelled, book-lined room had a curtain hung in the further
corner. When this was drawn it disclosed a large, brass-bound safe. Von Bork
detached a small key from his watch chain, and after some considerable
manipulation of the lock he swung open the heavy door.
"Look!" said he, standing clear, with a wave of his hand.
The light shone vividly into the opened safe, and the secretary of the
embassy gazed with an absorbed interest at the rows of stuffed pigeon-holes
with which it was furnished. Each pigeonhole had its label, and his eyes as he
glanced along them read a long series of such titles as "Fords," "
Harbourdefences," "Aeroplanes," "Ireland," "Egypt," "Portsmouth forts," "The
Channel," "Rosythe," and a score of others. Each compartment was bristling
with papers and plans.
"Colossal!" said the secretary. Putting down his cigar he softly clapped
his fat hands.
"And all in four years, Baron. Not such a bad show for the hard-drinking,
hard-riding country squire. But the gem of my collection is coming and there
is the setting all ready for it." He pointed to a space over which "Naval
Signals" was printed.
"But you have a good dossier there already."
"Out of date and waste paper. The Admiralty in some way got the alarm
and every code has been changed. It was a blow, Baron -- the worst setback in
my whole campaign. But thanks to my check-book and the good Altamont all will
be well to-night."
The Baron looked at his watch and gave a guttural exclamation of
"Well, I really can wait no longer. You can imagine that things are moving
at present in Carlton Terrace and that we have all to be at our posts. I
had hoped to be able to bring news of your great coup. Did Altamont
name no hour?"
Von Bork pushed over a telegram.
Will come without fail to-night and bring new sparking plugs.
"Sparking plugs, eh?"
"You see he poses as a motor expert and I keep a full garage. In our
code everything likely to come up is named after some spare part. If he
talks of a radiator it is a battleship, of an oil pump a cruiser, and so on.
Sparking plugs are naval signals."
"From Portsmouth at midday," said the secretary, examining the
superscription. "By the way, what do you give him?"
"Five hundred pounds for this particular job. Of course he has a salary as
"The greedy rogue. They are useful, these traitors, but I grudge them
their blood money."
"I grudge Altamont nothing. He is a wonderful worker. If I pay him well,
at least he delivers the goods, to use his own phrase. Besides he is not a
traitor. I assure you that our most pan-Germanic Junker is a sucking
dove in his feelings towards England as compared with a real bitter
"Oh, an Irish-American?"
"If you heard him talk you would not doubt it. Sometimes I assure you I
can hardly understand him. He seems to have declared war on the King's
English as well as on the English king. Must you really go? He may be
here any moment."
"No. I'm sorry, but I have already overstayed my time. We shall expect
you early to-morrow, and when you get that signal book through the
little door on the Duke of York's steps you can put a triumphant finis to
your record in England. What! Tokay!"
He indicated a heavily sealed dust-covered bottle which stood with two high
glasses upon a salver.
"May I offer you a glass before your journey?"
"No, thanks. But it looks like revelry."
"Altamont has a nice taste in wines, and he took a fancy to my Tokay. He is
a touchy fellow and needs humouring in small things. I have to study him, I
assure you." They had strolled out on to the terrace again, and along it to
the further end where at a touch from the Baron's chauffeur the great car
shivered and chuckled. "Those are the lights of Harwich, I suppose," said the
secretary, pulling on his dust coat. "How still and peaceful it all seems.
There may be other lights within the week, and the English coast a less
tranquil place! The heavens, too, may not be quite so peaceful if all that
the good Zeppelin promises us comes true. By the way, who is that?"
Only one window showed a light behind them; in it there stood a lamp, and
beside it, seated at a table, was a dear old ruddy-faced woman in a country
cap. She was bending over her knitting and stopping occasionally to stroke a
large black cat upon a stool beside her.
"That is Martha, the only servant I have left."
The secretary chuckled.
"She might almost personify Britannia," said he, "with her complete
selfabsorption and general air of comfortable somnolence. Well, au revoir, Von
Bork!" With a final wave of his hand he sprang into the car, and a moment
later the two golden cones from the headlights shot forward through the
darkness. The secretary lay back in the cushions of the luxurious limousine,
with his thoughts so full of the impending European tragedy that he hardly
observed that as his car swung round the village street it nearly passed over
a little Ford coming in the opposite direction.
Von Bork walked slowly back to the study when the last gleams of the motor
lamps had faded into the distance. As he passed he observed that his old
housekeeper had put out her lamp and retired. It was a new experience to
him, the silence and darkness of his widespread house, for his family and
household had been a large one. It was a relief to him, however, to think that
they were all in safety and that, but for that one old woman who had
lingered in the kitchen, he had the whole place to himself. There was a good
deal of tidying up to do inside his study and he set himself to do it until
his keen, handsome face was flushed with the heat of the burning papers. A
leather valise stood beside his table, and into this he began to pack very
neatly and systematically the precious contents of his safe. He had hardly
got started with the work, however, when his quick ears caught the sound of a
distant car. Instantly he gave an exclamation of satisfaction, strapped up
the valise, shut the safe, locked it, and hurried out on to the terrace. He
was just in time to see the lights of a small car come to a halt at the gate.
A passenger sprang out of it and advanced swiftly towards him, while the
chauffeur, a heavily built, elderly man with a gray moustache, settled down
like one who resigns himself to a long vigil.
"Well?" asked Von Bork eagerly, running forward to meet his visitor.
For answer the man waved a small brown-paper parcel triumphantly above
"You can give me the glad hand to-night, mister," he cried. "I'm bringing
home the bacon at last."
"Same as I said in my cable. Every last one of them, semaphore, lamp code,
Marconi -- a copy, mind you, not the original. That was too dangerous. But
it's the real goods, and you can lay to that." He slapped the German upon the
shoulder with a rough familiarity from which the other winced.
"Come in," he said. "I'm all alone in the house. I was only waiting for
this. Of course a copy is better than the original. If an original were
missing they would change the whole thing. You think it's all safe about the
The Irish-American had entered the study and stretched his long limbs from
the armchair. He was a tall, gaunt man of sixty, with clear-cut features and a
small goatee beard which gave him a general resemblance to the caricatures
of Uncle Sam. A halfsmoked, sodden cigar hung from the corner of his mouth,
and as he sat down he struck a match and relit it. "Making ready for a
move?" he remarked as he looked round him. "Say, mister," he added, as his
eyes fell upon the safe from which the curtain was now removed, "you don't
tell me you keep your papers in that?"
"Gosh, in a wide-open contraption like that! And they reckon you to be
some spy. Why, a Yankee crook would be into that with a
canopener. If I'd known that any letter of mine was goin' to lie loose in a thing
like that I'd have been a mug to write to you at all."
"It would puzzle any crook to force that safe," Von Bork answered. "You
won't cut that metal with any tool."
"But the lock?"
"No, it's a double combination lock. You know what that is?"
"Search me," said the American.
"Well, you need a word as well as a set of figures before you can get the
lock to work." He rose and showed a doubleradiating disc round the keyhole.
"This outer one is for the letters, thel inner one for the figures."
"Well, well, that's fine."
"So it's not quite as simple as you thought. It was four years ago that I
had it made, and what do you think I chose for the word and figures?"
"It's beyond me."
"Well, I chose August for the word, and 1914 for the figures, and here we
The American's face showed his surprise and admiration.
"My, but that was smart! You had it down to a fine thing."
"Yes, a few of us even then could have guessed the date. Here it is, and I'm
shutting down to-morrow morning. "
"Well, I guess you'll have to fix me up also. I'm not staying in this
goldarned country all on my lonesome. In a week or less, from what I see, John
Bull will be on his hind legs and fair ramping. I'd rather watch him from
over the water."
"But you're an American citizen?"
"Well, so was Jack James an American citizen, but he's doing time in
Portland all the same. It cuts no ice with a British copper to tell him
you're an American citizen. 'It's British law and order over here,' says he.
By the way, mister, talking of Jack James, it seems to me you don't do much
to cover your men."
"What do you mean?" Von Bork asked sharply.
"Well, you are their employer, ain't you? It's up to you to see that they
don't fall down. But they do fall down, and when did you ever pick them up?
There's James --"
"It was James's own fault. You know that yourself. He was too self-willed
for the job."
"James was a bonehead -- I give you that. Then there was Hollis. "
"The man was mad."
"Well, he went a bit woozy towards the end. It's enough to make a man
bughouse when he has to play a part from morning to night with a hundred
guys all ready to set the coppers wise to him. But now there is Steiner --"
Von Bork started violently, and his ruddy face turned a shade paler.
"What about Steiner?"
"Well, they've got him, that's all. They raided his store last night, and
he and his papers are all in Portsmouth jail. You'll go off and he, poor
devil, will have to stand the racket, and lucky if he gets off with his life.
That's why I want to get over the water as soon as you do."
Von Bork was a strong, self-contained man, but it was easy to see that the
news had shaken him.
"How could they have got on to Steiner?" he muttered. "That's the worst blow
"Well, you nearly had a worse one, for I believe they are not far off me."
"You don't mean that!"
"Sure thing. My landlady down Fratton way had some inquiries, and when I
heard of it I guessed it was time for me to hustle. But what I want to know,
mister, is how the coppers know these things? Steiner is the fifth man you've
lost since I signed on with you, and I know the name of the sixth if I don't
get a move on. How do you explain it, and ain't you ashamed to see your men
go down like this?"
Von Bork flushed crimson.
"How dare you speak in such a way!"
"If I didn't dare things, mister, I wouldn't be in your service. But I'll
tell you straight what is in my mind. I've heard that with you German
politicians when an agent has done his work you are not sorry to see him put
Von Bork sprang to his feet.
"Do you dare to suggest that I have given away my own agents!"
"I don't stand for that, mister, but there's a stool pigeon or a cross
somewhere, and it's up to you to find out where it is. Anyhow I am taking no
more chances. It's me for little Holland, and the sooner the better."
Von Bork had mastered his anger.
"We have been allies too long to quarrel now at the very hour of victory,"
he said. "You've done splendid work and taken risks, and I can't forget it. By
all means go to Holland, and you can get a boat from Rotterdam to New York.
No other line will be safe a week from now. I'll take that book and pack it
with the rest."
The American held the small parcel in his hand, but made no motion to give
"What about the dough?" he asked.
"The boodle. The reward. The 500 pounds. The gunner turned damned nasty at
the last, and I had to square him with an extra hundred dollars or it would
have been nitsky for you and me. 'Nothin' doin'!' says he, and he meant it,
too, but the last hundred did it. It's cost me two hundred pound from first
to last, so it isn't likely I'd give it up without gettin' my wad. "
Von Bork smiled with some bitterness. "You don't seem to have a very high
opinion of my honour," said he, "you want the money before you give up the
"Well, mister, it is a business proposition."
"All right. Have your way." He sat down at the table and scribbled a check,
which he tore from the book, but he refrained from handing it to his
companion. "After all, since we are to be on such terms, Mr. Altamont," said
he, "I don't see why I should trust you any more than you trust me. Do you
understand?" he added, looking back over his shoulder at the American.
"There's the check upon the table. I claim the right to examine that parcel
before you pick the money up."
The American passed it over without a word. Von Bork undid a winding of
string and two wrappers of paper. Then he sat gazing for a moment in silent
amazement at a small blue book which lay before him. Across the cover was
printed in golden letters Practical Handbook of Bee Culture. Only for one
instant did the master spy glare at this strangely irrelevant inscription. The
next he was gripped at the back of his neck by a grasp of iron, and a
chloroformed sponge was held in front of his writhing face.
"Another glass, Watson!" said Mr. Sherlock Holmes as he extended the bottle
of Imperial Tokay.
The thickset chauffeur, who had seated himself by the table pushed
forward his glass with some eagerness.
"It is a good wine, Holmes."
"A remarkable wine, Watson. Our friend upon the sofa has assured me
that it is from Franz Josef's special cellar at the Schoenbrunn Palace.
Might I trouble you to open the window for chloroform vapour does not
help the palate."
The safe was ajar, and Holmes standing in front of it was removing
dossier after dossier, swiftly examining each, and then packing it neatly
in Von Bork's valise. The German lay upon the sofa sleeping stertorously
with a strap round his upper arms and another round his legs.
"We need not hurry ourselves, Watson. We are safe from interruption.
Would you mind touching the bell? There is no one in the house except
old Martha, who has played her part to admiration. I got her the situation
here when first I took the matter up. Ah, Martha, you will be glad to hear
that all is well."
The pleasant old lady had appeared in the doorway. She curtseyed with a
smile to Mr. Holmes, but glanced with some apprehension at the figure
upon the sofa.
"It is all right, Martha. He has not been hurt at all."
"I am glad of that, Mr. Holmes. According to his lights he has been a kind
master. He wanted me to go with his wife to Germany yesterday, but
that would hardly have suited your plans, would it, sir?"
"No, indeed, Martha. So long as you were here I was easy in my mind. We
waited some time for your signal to-night."
"It was the secretary, sir."
"I know. His car passed ours."
"I thought he would never go. I knew that it would not suit your plans,
sir, to find him here."
"No, indeed. Well, it only meant that we waited half an hour or so until I
saw your lamp go out and knew that the coast was clear. You can report
to me to-morrow in London, Martha, at Claridge's Hotel."
"Very good, sir."
"I suppose you have everything ready to leave."
"Yes, sir. He posted seven letters to-day. I have the addresses as usual."
"Very good, Martha. I will look into them to-morrow.
Goodnight. These papers," he continued as the old lady vanished, "are not of
very great imponance, for, of course, the information which they represent
has been sent off long ago to the German government. These are the
originals which could not safely be got out of the country."
"Then they are of no use."
"I should not go so far as to say that, Watson. They will at least show our
people what is known and what is not. I may say that a good many of
these papers have come tbrough me, and I need not add are thoroughly
untrustworthy. It would brighten my declining years to see a German
cruiser navigating the Solent according to the mine-field plans which I
have furnished. But you, Watson" -- he stopped his work and took his old
friend by the shoulders -- "I've hardly seen you in the light yet. How have
the years used you? You look the same blithe boy as ever. "
"I feel twenty years younger, Holmes. I have seldom felt so happy as when
I got your wire asking me to meet you at Harwich with the car. But you,
Holmes -- you have changed very little -- save for that horrible goatee."
"These are the sacrifices one makes for one's country, Watson," said
Holmes, pulling at his little tuft. "To-morrow it will be but a dreadful
memory. With my hair cut and a few other superficial changes I shall no
doubt reappear at Claridge's tomorrow as I was before this American
stunt -- I beg your pardon, Watson, my well of English seems to be
permanently defiled -- before this American job came my way."
"But you have retired, Holmes. We heard of you as living the life of a
hermit among your bees and your books in a small farm upon the South
"Exactly, Watson. Here is the fruit of my leisured ease, the magnum opus of
my latter years!" He picked up the volume from the table and read out the
whole title, Practical Handbook of Bee Culture, with Some Observations
upon the Segregation of the Queen. "Alone I did it. Behold the fruit of
pensive nights and laborious days when I watched the little working gangs
as once I watched the criminal world of London."
"But how did you get to work again?"
"Ah, I have often marvelled at it myself. The Foreign Minister alone I could
have withstood, but when the Premier also deigned to visit my humble
roof! The fact is, Watson, that this gentleman upon the sofa was a bit too
good for our people. He was in a class by himself. Things were going wrong,
and no one could understand why they were going wrong. Agents were suspected
or even caught, but there was evidence of some strong and secret central
force. It was absolutely necessary to expose it. Strong pressure was brought
upon me to look into the matter. It has cost me two years, Watson, but they
have not been devoid of excitement. When I say that I started my pilgrimage
at Chicago, graduated in an Irish secret society at Buffalo, gave serious
trouble to the constabulary at Skibbareen, and so eventually caught the eye
of a subordinate agent of Von Bork, who recommended me as a likely man, you
will realize that the matter was complex. Since then I have been honoured by
his confidence, which has not prevented most of his plans going subtly wrong
and five of his best agents being in prison. I watched them, Watson, and I
picked them as they ripened. Well, sir, I hope that you are none the worse!"
The last remark was addressed to Von Bork himself, who after much
gasping and blinking had lain quietly listening to Holmes's statement. He
broke out now into a furious stream of German invective, his face convulsed
with passion. Holmes continued his swift investigation of documents while
his prisoner cursed and swore.
"Though unmusical, German is the most expressive of all languages," he
observed when Von Bork had stopped from pure exhaustion. "Hullo! Hullo!"
he added as he looked hard at the corner of a tracing before putting it in the
box. "This should put another bird in the cage. I had no idea that the
paymaster was such a rascal, though I have long had an eye upon him.
Mister Von Bork, you have a great deal to answer for."
The prisoner had raised himself with some difficulty upon the sofa and was
staring with a strange mixture of amazement and hatred at his captor.
I shall get level with you, Altamont," he said, speaking with slow
deliberation. "If it takes me all my life I shall get level with you!"
"The old sweet song," said Holmes. "How often have I heard it in days gone
by. It was a favourite ditty of the late lamented Professor Moriarty. Colonel
Sebastian Moran has also been known to warble it. And yet I live and keep
bees upon the South Downs."
"Curse you, you double traitor!" cried the German, straining against his
bonds and glaring murder from his furious eyes.
"No, no, it is not so bad as that," said Holmes, smiling. "As my speech
surely shows you, Mr. Altamont af Chicago had no existence in fact. I used
him and he is gone."
"Then who are you?"
"It is really immaterial who I am, but since the matter seems to interest
you, Mr. Von Bork, I may say that this is not my first acquaintance with the
members of your family. I have done a good deal of business in Germany in
the past and my name is probably familiar to you."
"I would wish to know it," said the Prussian grimly.
"It was I who brought about the separation between Irene Adler and the late
King of Bohemia when yorur cousin Heinrich was the Imperial Envoy. It was I
also who saved from murder, by the Nihilist Klopman, Count Von und Zu
Grafenstein, who was your mother's elder brother. It was I --"
Von Bork sat up in amazement.
"There is only one man," he cried.
"Exactly," said Holmes.
Von Bork groaned and sank back on the sofa. "And most of that information
came through you," he cried. "What is it worth? What have I done? It is my
"It is certainly a little untrustworthy," said Holmes. "It will require some
checking and you have little time to check it. Your admiral may find the new
guns rather larger than he expects, and the cruisers perhaps a trifle faster."
Von Bork clutched at his own throat in despair.
"There are a good many other points of defail which will, no doubt, come to
light in good time. But youl have one quality which is very rare in a German,
Mr. Von Bork: you are a sportsman and you will bear me no ill-will when you
realize that you, who have outwitted so many other people, have at last been
outwitted yourself. After all, you have done vour best for your country, and I
have done my best for mine, and what could be more natural? Besides," he
added, not unkindly, as he laid his hand upon the shoulder of the prostrate
man, "it is better than to fall before some more ignoble foe. These papers are
now ready. Watson. If you will help me with our prisoner, I think that we
may get started for London at once."
It was no easy task to move Von Bork, for he was a strong and a desperate
man. Finally, holding either arm, the two friends walked him very slowly down
the garden walk which he had trod with such proud confidence when he
received the congratulations of the famous diplomatist only a few hours
before. After a short, final struggle he was hoisted, still bound hand and
foot, into the spare seat of the little car. His precious valise was wedged
in beside him.
"I trust that you are as comfortable as circumstances permit," said Holmes
when the final arrangements were made. "Should I be guilty of a liberty if I
lit a cigar and placed it between your lips?"
But all amenities were wasted upon the angry German.
"I suppose you realize, Mr. Sherlock Holmes," said he, "that if your
government bears you out in this treatment it becomes an act of war."
"What about your government and all this treatment?" said Holmes, tapping
"You are a private individual. You have no warrant for my arrest. The whole
proceeding is absolutely illegal and outrageous."
"Absolutely," said Holmes.
"Kidnapping a German subject."
"And stealing his private papers."
"Well, you realize your position, you and your accomplice here. If I were to
shout for help as we pass through the village --"
"My dear sir, if you did anything so foolish you would probably enlarge the
two limited titles of our village inns by giving us 'The Dangling Prussian'
as a signpost. The Englishman is a patient creature, but at present his
temper is a little inflamed, and it would be as well not to try him too far.
No, Mr. Von Bork, you will go with us in a quiet, sensible fashion to
Scotland Yard, whence you can send for your friend, Baron Von Herling, and
see if even now you may not fill that place which he has reserved for you in
the ambassadorial suite. As to you, Watson, you are joining us with your old
service, as I understand, so London won't be out of your way. Stand with me
here upon the terrace, for it may be the last quiet talk that we shall ever
The two friends chatted in intimate converse for a few minutes, recalling
once again the days of the past, while their prisoner vainly wriggled to undo
the bonds that held him. As they turned to the car Holmes pointed back to the
moonlit sea and shook a thoughtful head.
"There's an east wind coming, Watson."
"l think not, Holmes. It is very warm."
"Good old Watson! You are the one fixed point in a changing age. There's an
east wind coming all the same, such a wind as never blew on England yet. It
will be cold and bitter, Watson and a good many of us may wither before its
blast. But it's God's own wind none the less, and a cleaner, better, stronger
land will lie in the sunshine when the storm has cleared. Start her up,
Watson, for it's time that we were on our way. I have a check for five
hundred pounds which should be cashed early, for the drawer is quite
capable of stopping it if he can."