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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesA Study In Scarlet - PART II - Chapter VI - A CONTINUATION OF THE REMINISCENCES OF JOHN WATSON, M.D.
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A Study In Scarlet - PART II - Chapter VI - A CONTINUATION OF THE REMINISCENCES OF JOHN WATSON, M.D. Post by :Ken_Stone Category :Long Stories Author :Arthur Conan Doyle Date :December 2010 Read :1108

Click below to download : A Study In Scarlet - PART II - Chapter VI - A CONTINUATION OF THE REMINISCENCES OF JOHN WATSON, M.D. (Format : PDF)

A Study In Scarlet - PART II - Chapter VI - A CONTINUATION OF THE REMINISCENCES OF JOHN WATSON, M.D.

OUR prisoner's furious resistance did not apparently indicate
any ferocity in his disposition towards ourselves, for on
finding himself powerless, he smiled in an affable manner,
and expressed his hopes that he had not hurt any of us in the
scuffle. "I guess you're going to take me to the police-station,"
he remarked to Sherlock Holmes. "My cab's at the door.
If you'll loose my legs I'll walk down to it. I'm not so light
to lift as I used to be."

Gregson and Lestrade exchanged glances as if they thought
this proposition rather a bold one; but Holmes at once took
the prisoner at his word, and loosened the towel which we had
bound round his ancles. {23} He rose and stretched his legs,
as though to assure himself that they were free once more.
I remember that I thought to myself, as I eyed him, that I had
seldom seen a more powerfully built man; and his dark
sunburned face bore an expression of determination and energy
which was as formidable as his personal strength.

"If there's a vacant place for a chief of the police,
I reckon you are the man for it," he said, gazing with
undisguised admiration at my fellow-lodger. "The way you
kept on my trail was a caution."

"You had better come with me," said Holmes to the two detectives.

"I can drive you," said Lestrade.

"Good! and Gregson can come inside with me. You too, Doctor,
you have taken an interest in the case and may as well stick
to us."

I assented gladly, and we all descended together. Our
prisoner made no attempt at escape, but stepped calmly into
the cab which had been his, and we followed him. Lestrade
mounted the box, whipped up the horse, and brought us in a
very short time to our destination. We were ushered into a
small chamber where a police Inspector noted down our
prisoner's name and the names of the men with whose murder he
had been charged. The official was a white-faced unemotional
man, who went through his duties in a dull mechanical way.
"The prisoner will be put before the magistrates in the
course of the week," he said; "in the mean time, Mr.
Jefferson Hope, have you anything that you wish to say?
I must warn you that your words will be taken down, and may
be used against you."

"I've got a good deal to say," our prisoner said slowly.
"I want to tell you gentlemen all about it."

"Hadn't you better reserve that for your trial?" asked the
Inspector.

"I may never be tried," he answered. "You needn't look
startled. It isn't suicide I am thinking of. Are you a
Doctor?" He turned his fierce dark eyes upon me as he asked
this last question.

"Yes; I am," I answered.

"Then put your hand here," he said, with a smile, motioning
with his manacled wrists towards his chest.

I did so; and became at once conscious of an extraordinary
throbbing and commotion which was going on inside. The walls
of his chest seemed to thrill and quiver as a frail building
would do inside when some powerful engine was at work. In
the silence of the room I could hear a dull humming and
buzzing noise which proceeded from the same source.

"Why," I cried, "you have an aortic aneurism!"

"That's what they call it," he said, placidly. "I went to a
Doctor last week about it, and he told me that it is bound to
burst before many days passed. It has been getting worse for
years. I got it from over-exposure and under-feeding among
the Salt Lake Mountains. I've done my work now, and I don't
care how soon I go, but I should like to leave some account
of the business behind me. I don't want to be remembered as
a common cut-throat."

The Inspector and the two detectives had a hurried discussion
as to the advisability of allowing him to tell his story.

"Do you consider, Doctor, that there is immediate danger?"
the former asked, {24}

"Most certainly there is," I answered.

"In that case it is clearly our duty, in the interests
of justice, to take his statement," said the Inspector.
"You are at liberty, sir, to give your account, which I again
warn you will be taken down."

"I'll sit down, with your leave," the prisoner said, suiting
the action to the word. "This aneurism of mine makes me
easily tired, and the tussle we had half an hour ago has not
mended matters. I'm on the brink of the grave, and I am not
likely to lie to you. Every word I say is the absolute truth,
and how you use it is a matter of no consequence to me."

With these words, Jefferson Hope leaned back in his chair and
began the following remarkable statement. He spoke in a calm
and methodical manner, as though the events which he narrated
were commonplace enough. I can vouch for the accuracy of the
subjoined account, for I have had access to Lestrade's note-book,
in which the prisoner's words were taken down exactly as they
were uttered.

"It don't much matter to you why I hated these men," he said;
"it's enough that they were guilty of the death of two human
beings -- a father and a daughter -- and that they had,
therefore, forfeited their own lives. After the lapse of
time that has passed since their crime, it was impossible for
me to secure a conviction against them in any court. I knew
of their guilt though, and I determined that I should be
judge, jury, and executioner all rolled into one. You'd have
done the same, if you have any manhood in you, if you had
been in my place.

"That girl that I spoke of was to have married me twenty
years ago. She was forced into marrying that same Drebber,
and broke her heart over it. I took the marriage ring from
her dead finger, and I vowed that his dying eyes should rest
upon that very ring, and that his last thoughts should be of
the crime for which he was punished. I have carried it about
with me, and have followed him and his accomplice over two
continents until I caught them. They thought to tire me out,
but they could not do it. If I die to-morrow, as is likely
enough, I die knowing that my work in this world is done,
and well done. They have perished, and by my hand.
There is nothing left for me to hope for, or to desire.

"They were rich and I was poor, so that it was no easy matter
for me to follow them. When I got to London my pocket was
about empty, and I found that I must turn my hand to
something for my living. Driving and riding are as natural
to me as walking, so I applied at a cabowner's office, and
soon got employment. I was to bring a certain sum a week to
the owner, and whatever was over that I might keep for
myself. There was seldom much over, but I managed to scrape
along somehow. The hardest job was to learn my way about,
for I reckon that of all the mazes that ever were contrived,
this city is the most confusing. I had a map beside me
though, and when once I had spotted the principal hotels and
stations, I got on pretty well.

"It was some time before I found out where my two gentlemen
were living; but I inquired and inquired until at last I
dropped across them. They were at a boarding-house at
Camberwell, over on the other side of the river. When once I
found them out I knew that I had them at my mercy. I had
grown my beard, and there was no chance of their recognizing
me. I would dog them and follow them until I saw my opportunity.
I was determined that they should not escape me again.

"They were very near doing it for all that. Go where they
would about London, I was always at their heels. Sometimes I
followed them on my cab, and sometimes on foot, but the
former was the best, for then they could not get away from
me. It was only early in the morning or late at night that I
could earn anything, so that I began to get behind hand with
my employer. I did not mind that, however, as long as I
could lay my hand upon the men I wanted.

"They were very cunning, though. They must have thought that
there was some chance of their being followed, for they would
never go out alone, and never after nightfall. During two
weeks I drove behind them every day, and never once saw them
separate. Drebber himself was drunk half the time, but
Stangerson was not to be caught napping. I watched them late
and early, but never saw the ghost of a chance; but I was not
discouraged, for something told me that the hour had almost
come. My only fear was that this thing in my chest might
burst a little too soon and leave my work undone.

"At last, one evening I was driving up and down Torquay
Terrace, as the street was called in which they boarded, when
I saw a cab drive up to their door. Presently some luggage
was brought out, and after a time Drebber and Stangerson
followed it, and drove off. I whipped up my horse and kept
within sight of them, feeling very ill at ease, for I feared
that they were going to shift their quarters. At Euston
Station they got out, and I left a boy to hold my horse, and
followed them on to the platform. I heard them ask for the
Liverpool train, and the guard answer that one had just gone
and there would not be another for some hours. Stangerson
seemed to be put out at that, but Drebber was rather pleased
than otherwise. I got so close to them in the bustle that I
could hear every word that passed between them. Drebber said
that he had a little business of his own to do, and that if
the other would wait for him he would soon rejoin him. His
companion remonstrated with him, and reminded him that they
had resolved to stick together. Drebber answered that the
matter was a delicate one, and that he must go alone.
I could not catch what Stangerson said to that, but the other
burst out swearing, and reminded him that he was nothing more
than his paid servant, and that he must not presume to
dictate to him. On that the Secretary gave it up as a bad
job, and simply bargained with him that if he missed the last
train he should rejoin him at Halliday's Private Hotel;
to which Drebber answered that he would be back on the platform
before eleven, and made his way out of the station.

"The moment for which I had waited so long had at last come.
I had my enemies within my power. Together they could
protect each other, but singly they were at my mercy. I did
not act, however, with undue precipitation. My plans were
already formed. There is no satisfaction in vengeance unless
the offender has time to realize who it is that strikes him,
and why retribution has come upon him. I had my plans
arranged by which I should have the opportunity of making the
man who had wronged me understand that his old sin had found
him out. It chanced that some days before a gentleman who
had been engaged in looking over some houses in the Brixton
Road had dropped the key of one of them in my carriage.
It was claimed that same evening, and returned; but in the
interval I had taken a moulding of it, and had a duplicate
constructed. By means of this I had access to at least one
spot in this great city where I could rely upon being free
from interruption. How to get Drebber to that house was the
difficult problem which I had now to solve.

"He walked down the road and went into one or two liquor
shops, staying for nearly half-an-hour in the last of them.
When he came out he staggered in his walk, and was evidently
pretty well on. There was a hansom just in front of me,
and he hailed it. I followed it so close that the nose of my
horse was within a yard of his driver the whole way.
We rattled across Waterloo Bridge and through miles of streets,
until, to my astonishment, we found ourselves back in the
Terrace in which he had boarded. I could not imagine what
his intention was in returning there; but I went on and
pulled up my cab a hundred yards or so from the house.
He entered it, and his hansom drove away. Give me a glass
of water, if you please. My mouth gets dry with the talking."

I handed him the glass, and he drank it down.

"That's better," he said. "Well, I waited for a quarter of
an hour, or more, when suddenly there came a noise like
people struggling inside the house. Next moment the door was
flung open and two men appeared, one of whom was Drebber, and
the other was a young chap whom I had never seen before.
This fellow had Drebber by the collar, and when they came to
the head of the steps he gave him a shove and a kick which
sent him half across the road. `You hound,' he cried,
shaking his stick at him; `I'll teach you to insult an honest
girl!' He was so hot that I think he would have thrashed
Drebber with his cudgel, only that the cur staggered away
down the road as fast as his legs would carry him. He ran as
far as the corner, and then, seeing my cab, he hailed me and
jumped in. `Drive me to Halliday's Private Hotel,' said he.

"When I had him fairly inside my cab, my heart jumped so with
joy that I feared lest at this last moment my aneurism might
go wrong. I drove along slowly, weighing in my own mind what
it was best to do. I might take him right out into the
country, and there in some deserted lane have my last
interview with him. I had almost decided upon this, when he
solved the problem for me. The craze for drink had seized
him again, and he ordered me to pull up outside a gin palace.
He went in, leaving word that I should wait for him. There
he remained until closing time, and when he came out he was
so far gone that I knew the game was in my own hands.

"Don't imagine that I intended to kill him in cold blood.
It would only have been rigid justice if I had done so,
but I could not bring myself to do it. I had long determined
that he should have a show for his life if he chose to take
advantage of it. Among the many billets which I have filled
in America during my wandering life, I was once janitor and
sweeper out of the laboratory at York College. One day the
professor was lecturing on poisions, {25} and he showed his
students some alkaloid, as he called it, which he had
extracted from some South American arrow poison, and which
was so powerful that the least grain meant instant death.
I spotted the bottle in which this preparation was kept, and
when they were all gone, I helped myself to a little of it.
I was a fairly good dispenser, so I worked this alkaloid into
small, soluble pills, and each pill I put in a box with a
similar pill made without the poison. I determined at the
time that when I had my chance, my gentlemen should each have
a draw out of one of these boxes, while I ate the pill that
remained. It would be quite as deadly, and a good deal less
noisy than firing across a handkerchief. From that day I had
always my pill boxes about with me, and the time had now come
when I was to use them.

"It was nearer one than twelve, and a wild, bleak night,
blowing hard and raining in torrents. Dismal as it was
outside, I was glad within -- so glad that I could have
shouted out from pure exultation. If any of you gentlemen
have ever pined for a thing, and longed for it during twenty
long years, and then suddenly found it within your reach, you
would understand my feelings. I lit a cigar, and puffed at
it to steady my nerves, but my hands were trembling, and my
temples throbbing with excitement. As I drove, I could see
old John Ferrier and sweet Lucy looking at me out of the
darkness and smiling at me, just as plain as I see you all in
this room. All the way they were ahead of me, one on each
side of the horse until I pulled up at the house in the
Brixton Road.

"There was not a soul to be seen, nor a sound to be heard,
except the dripping of the rain. When I looked in at the window,
I found Drebber all huddled together in a drunken sleep.
I shook him by the arm, `It's time to get out,' I said.

"`All right, cabby,' said he.

"I suppose he thought we had come to the hotel that he had
mentioned, for he got out without another word, and followed
me down the garden. I had to walk beside him to keep him
steady, for he was still a little top-heavy. When we came
to the door, I opened it, and led him into the front room.
I give you my word that all the way, the father and the
daughter were walking in front of us.

"`It's infernally dark,' said he, stamping about.

"`We'll soon have a light,' I said, striking a match and
putting it to a wax candle which I had brought with me.
`Now, Enoch Drebber,' I continued, turning to him, and
holding the light to my own face, `who am I?'

"He gazed at me with bleared, drunken eyes for a moment, and
then I saw a horror spring up in them, and convulse his whole
features, which showed me that he knew me. He staggered back
with a livid face, and I saw the perspiration break out upon
his brow, while his teeth chattered in his head. At the
sight, I leaned my back against the door and laughed loud and
long. I had always known that vengeance would be sweet, but
I had never hoped for the contentment of soul which now
possessed me.

"`You dog!' I said; `I have hunted you from Salt Lake City to
St. Petersburg, and you have always escaped me. Now, at last
your wanderings have come to an end, for either you or I
shall never see to-morrow's sun rise.' He shrunk still
further away as I spoke, and I could see on his face that he
thought I was mad. So I was for the time. The pulses in my
temples beat like sledge-hammers, and I believe I would have
had a fit of some sort if the blood had not gushed from my
nose and relieved me.

"`What do you think of Lucy Ferrier now?' I cried, locking
the door, and shaking the key in his face. `Punishment has
been slow in coming, but it has overtaken you at last.'
I saw his coward lips tremble as I spoke. He would have begged
for his life, but he knew well that it was useless.

"`Would you murder me?' he stammered.

"`There is no murder,' I answered. `Who talks of murdering
a mad dog? What mercy had you upon my poor darling, when you
dragged her from her slaughtered father, and bore her away to
your accursed and shameless harem.'

"`It was not I who killed her father,' he cried.

"`But it was you who broke her innocent heart,' I shrieked,
thrusting the box before him. `Let the high God judge
between us. Choose and eat. There is death in one and life
in the other. I shall take what you leave. Let us see if
there is justice upon the earth, or if we are ruled by chance.'

"He cowered away with wild cries and prayers for mercy, but I
drew my knife and held it to his throat until he had obeyed
me. Then I swallowed the other, and we stood facing one
another in silence for a minute or more, waiting to see which
was to live and which was to die. Shall I ever forget the
look which came over his face when the first warning pangs
told him that the poison was in his system? I laughed as I
saw it, and held Lucy's marriage ring in front of his eyes.
It was but for a moment, for the action of the alkaloid is
rapid. A spasm of pain contorted his features; he threw his
hands out in front of him, staggered, and then, with a hoarse
cry, fell heavily upon the floor. I turned him over with my
foot, and placed my hand upon his heart. There was no
movement. He was dead!

"The blood had been streaming from my nose, but I had taken
no notice of it. I don't know what it was that put it into
my head to write upon the wall with it. Perhaps it was some
mischievous idea of setting the police upon a wrong track,
for I felt light-hearted and cheerful. I remembered a German
being found in New York with RACHE written up above him, and
it was argued at the time in the newspapers that the secret
societies must have done it. I guessed that what puzzled the
New Yorkers would puzzle the Londoners, so I dipped my finger
in my own blood and printed it on a convenient place on the
wall. Then I walked down to my cab and found that there was
nobody about, and that the night was still very wild. I had
driven some distance when I put my hand into the pocket in
which I usually kept Lucy's ring, and found that it was not
there. I was thunderstruck at this, for it was the only
memento that I had of her. Thinking that I might have
dropped it when I stooped over Drebber's body, I drove back,
and leaving my cab in a side street, I went boldly up to the
house -- for I was ready to dare anything rather than lose
the ring. When I arrived there, I walked right into the arms
of a police-officer who was coming out, and only managed to
disarm his suspicions by pretending to be hopelessly drunk.

"That was how Enoch Drebber came to his end. All I had to do
then was to do as much for Stangerson, and so pay off John
Ferrier's debt. I knew that he was staying at Halliday's
Private Hotel, and I hung about all day, but he never came
out. {26} fancy that he suspected something when Drebber
failed to put in an appearance. He was cunning, was
Stangerson, and always on his guard. If he thought he could
keep me off by staying indoors he was very much mistaken.
I soon found out which was the window of his bedroom, and early
next morning I took advantage of some ladders which were
lying in the lane behind the hotel, and so made my way into
his room in the grey of the dawn. I woke him up and told him
that the hour had come when he was to answer for the life he
had taken so long before. I described Drebber's death to
him, and I gave him the same choice of the poisoned pills.
Instead of grasping at the chance of safety which that
offered him, he sprang from his bed and flew at my throat.
In self-defence I stabbed him to the heart. It would have
been the same in any case, for Providence would never have
allowed his guilty hand to pick out anything but the poison.

"I have little more to say, and it's as well, for I am about
done up. I went on cabbing it for a day or so, intending to
keep at it until I could save enough to take me back to
America. I was standing in the yard when a ragged youngster
asked if there was a cabby there called Jefferson Hope, and
said that his cab was wanted by a gentleman at 221B, Baker
Street. I went round, suspecting no harm, and the next thing
I knew, this young man here had the bracelets on my wrists,
and as neatly snackled {27} as ever I saw in my life. That's
the whole of my story, gentlemen. You may consider me to be
a murderer; but I hold that I am just as much an officer of
justice as you are."

So thrilling had the man's narrative been, and his manner was
so impressive that we had sat silent and absorbed. Even the
professional detectives, _blase {28} as they were in every detail
of crime, appeared to be keenly interested in the man's story.
When he finished we sat for some minutes in a stillness which
was only broken by the scratching of Lestrade's pencil as he
gave the finishing touches to his shorthand account.

"There is only one point on which I should like a little more
information," Sherlock Holmes said at last. "Who was your
accomplice who came for the ring which I advertised?"

The prisoner winked at my friend jocosely. "I can tell my own
secrets," he said, "but I don't get other people into trouble.
I saw your advertisement, and I thought it might be a plant,
or it might be the ring which I wanted. My friend volunteered
to go and see. I think you'll own he did it smartly."

"Not a doubt of that," said Holmes heartily.

"Now, gentlemen," the Inspector remarked gravely, "the forms
of the law must be complied with. On Thursday the prisoner
will be brought before the magistrates, and your attendance
will be required. Until then I will be responsible for him."
He rang the bell as he spoke, and Jefferson Hope was led off
by a couple of warders, while my friend and I made our way
out of the Station and took a cab back to Baker Street.

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WE had all been warned to appear before the magistratesupon the Thursday; but when the Thursday came there was nooccasion for our testimony. A higher Judge had taken thematter in hand, and Jefferson Hope had been summoned beforea tribunal where strict justice would be meted out to him.On the very night after his capture the aneurism burst,and he was found in the morning stretched upon the floorof the cell, with a placid smile upon his face, as thoughhe had been able in his dying moments to look back upona useful life, and on work well done."Gregson and Lestrade will be
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ALL night their course lay through intricate defiles and overirregular and rock-strewn paths. More than once they losttheir way, but Hope's intimate knowledge of the mountainsenabled them to regain the track once more. When morningbroke, a scene of marvellous though savage beauty lay beforethem. In every direction the great snow-capped peaks hemmedthem in, peeping over each other's shoulders to the farhorizon. So steep were the rocky banks on either side ofthem, that the larch and the pine seemed to be suspended overtheir heads, and to need only a gust of wind to come hurtlingdown upon them.
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