The Return of Sherlock Holmes
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precedes the dawn, when we all started as a low but sharp click
came from the direction of the gate. Someone had entered the
drive. Again there was a long silence, and I had begun to fear
that it was a false alarm, when a stealthy step was heard upon the
other side of the hut, and a moment later a metallic scraping and
clinking. The man was trying to force the lock. This time his
skill was greater or his tool was better, for there was a sudden
snap and the creak of the hinges. Then a match was struck, and
next instant the steady light from a candle filled the interior of
the hut. Through the gauze curtain our eyes were all riveted upon
the scene within.
The nocturnal visitor was a young man, frail and thin, with a
black moustache, which intensified the deadly pallor of his face.
He could not have been much above twenty years of age. I have
never seen any human being who appeared to be in such a
pitiable fright, for his teeth were visibly chattering, and he was
shaking in every limb. He was dressed like a gentleman, in
Norfolk jacket and knickerbockers, with a cloth cap upon his
head. We watched him staring round with frightened eyes. Then
he laid the candle-end upon the table and disappeared from our
view into one of the corners. He returned with a large book, one
of the logbooks which formed a line upon the shelves. Leaning
on the table, he rapidly turned over the leaves of this volume
until he came to the entry which he sought. Then, with an angry
gesture of his clenched hand, he closed the book, replaced it in
the corner, and put out the light. He had hardly turned to leave
the hut when Hopkins's hand was on the fellow's collar, and I
heard his loud gasp of terror as he understood that he was taken.
The candle was relit, and there was our wretched captive, shiver-
ing and cowering in the grasp of the detective. He sank down
upon the sea-chest, and looked helplessly from one of us to the
"Now, my fine fellow," said Stanley Hopkins, "who are
you, and what do you want here?"
The man pulled himself together, and faced us with an effort
"You are detectives, I suppose?" said he. "You imagine I am
connected with the death of Captain Peter Carey. I assure you
that I am innocent."
"We'll see about that," said Hopkins. "First of all, what is
"It is John Hopley Neligan."
I saw Holmes and Hopkins exchange a quick glance.
"What are you doing here?"
"Can I speak confidentially?"
"No, certainly not."
"Why should I tell you?"
"If you have no answer, it may go badly with you at the
The young man winced.
"Well, I will tell you," he said. "Why should I not? And yet
I hate to think of this old scandal gaining a new lease of life. Did
you ever hear of Dawson and Neligan?"
I could see, from Hopkins's face, that he never had, but
Holmes was keenly interested.
"You mean the West Country bankers," said he. "They
failed for a million, ruined half the county families of Cornwall,
and Neligan disappeared."
"Exactly. Neligan was my father."
At last we were getting something positive, and yet it seemed
a long gap between an absconding banker and Captain Peter
Carey pinned against the wall with one of his own harpoons. We
all listened intently to the young man's words.
"It was my father who was really concerned. Dawson had
retired. I was only ten years of age at the time, but I was old
enough to feel the shame and horror of it all. It has always been
said that my father stole all the securities and fled. It is not true.
It was his belief that if he were given time in which to realize
them, all would be well and every creditor paid in full. He
started in his little yacht for Norway just before the warrant was
issued for his arrest. I can remember that last night, when he
bade farewell to my mother. He left us a list of the securities he
was taking, and he swore that he would come back with his
honour cleared, and that none who had trusted him would suffer.
Well, no word was ever heard from him again. Both the yacht
and he vanished utterly. We believed, my mother and I, that he
and it, with the securities that he had taken with him, were at the
bottom of the sea. We had a faithful friend, however, who is a
business man, and it was he who discovered some time ago that
some of the securities which my father had with him had reap-
peared on the London market. You can imagine our amazement.
I spent months in trying to trace them, and at last, after many
doubtings and difficulties, I discovered that the original seller
had been Captain Peter Carey, the owner of this hut.
"Naturally, I made some inquiries about the man. I found that
he had been in command of a whaler which was due to return
from the Arctic seas at the very time when my father was
crossing to Norway. The autumn of that year was a stormy one,
and there was a long succession of southerly gales. My father's
yacht may well have been blown to the north, and there met by
Captain Peter Carey's ship. If that were so, what had become of
my father? In any case, if I could prove from Peter Carey's
evidence how these securities came on the market it would be a
proof that my father had not sold them, and that he had no view
to personal profit when he took them.
"I came down to Sussex with the intention of seeing the
captain, but it was at this moment that his terrible death occurred.
I read at the inquest a description of his cabin, in which it stated
that the old logbooks of his vessel were preserved in it. It struck
me that if I could see what occurred in the month of August,
1883, on board the Sea Unicorn, I might settle the mystery of
my father's fate. I tried last night to get at these logbooks, but
was unable to open the door. To-night I tried again and suc-
ceeded, but I find that the pages which deal with that month have
been torn from the book. lt was at that moment I found myself a
prisoner in your hands."
"Is that all?" asked Hopkins.
"Yes, that is all." His eyes shifted as he said it.
"You have nothing else to tell us?"
"No, there is nothing."
"You have not been here before last night?''
"Then how do you account for that?" cried Hopkins, as he
held up the damning notebook, with the initials of our prisoner on
the first leaf and the blood-stain on the cover.
The wretched man collapsed. He sank his face in his hands,
and trembled all over.
"Where did you get it?" he groaned. "I did not know. I
thought I had lost it at the hotel."
"That is enough," said Hopkins, sternly. "Whatever else
you have to say, you must say in court. You will walk down
with me now to the police-station. Well, Mr. Holmes, I am very
much obliged to you and to your friend for coming down to help
me. As it turns out your presence was unnecessary, and I would
have brought the case to this successful issue without you, but,
none the less, I am grateful. Rooms have been reserved for you
at the Brambletye Hotel, so we can a]l walk down to the village
"Well, Watson, what do you think of it?" asked Holmes, as
we travelled back next morning.
"I can see that you are not satisfied."
"Oh, yes, my dear Watson, I am perfectly satisfied. At the
same time, Stanley Hopkins's methods do not commend them-
selves to me. I am disappointed in Stanley Hopkins. I had hoped
for better things from him. One should always look for a possi-
ble alternative, and provide against it. It is the first rule of
"What, then, is the alternative?"
"The line of investigation which I have myself been pursuing.
It may give us nothing. I cannot tell. But at least I shall follow it
to the end."
Several letters were waiting for Holmes at Baker Street. He
snatched one of them up, opened it, and burst out into a trium-
phant chuckle of laughter.
"Excellent, Watson! The alternative develops. Have you tele-
graph forms? Just write a couple of messages for me: 'Sumner,
Shipping Agent, Ratcliff Highway. Send three men on, to arrive
ten to-morrow morning. -- Basil.' That's my name in those parts.
The other is: 'Inspector Stanley Hopkins, 46 Lord Street, Brixton.
Come breakfast to-morrow at nine-thirty. Important. Wire if un-
able to come. -- Sherlock Holmes.' There, Watson, this infernal
case has haunted me for ten days. I hereby banish it completely
from my presence. To-morrow, I trust that we shall hear the last
of it forever."
Sharp at the hour named Inspector Stanley Hopkins appeared,
and we sat down together to the excellent breakfast which Mrs.
Hudson had prepared. The young detective was in high spirits at