"We must accept your terms, Mr. Holmes. No doubt you are right, and
it is unreasonable for us to expect you to act unless we give you our
"I agree with you," said the younger statesman.
"Then I will tell you, relying entirely upon your honour and that of
your colleague, Dr. Watson. I may appeal to your patriotism also, for
I could not imagine a greater misfortune for the country than that this
affair should come out."
"You may safely trust us."
"The letter, then, is from a certain foreign potentate who has been
ruffled by some recent Colonial developments of this country. It
has been written hurriedly and upon his own responsibility entirely.
Inquiries have shown that his Ministers know nothing of the matter.
At the same time it is couched in so unfortunate a manner, and certain
phrases in it are of so provocative a character, that its publication
would undoubtedly lead to a most dangerous state of feeling in this
country. There would be such a ferment, sir, that I do not hesitate to
say that within a week of the publication of that letter this country
would be involved in a great war."
Holmes wrote a name upon a slip of paper and handed it to the Premier.
"Exactly. It was he. And it is this letter - this letter which may well
mean the expenditure of a thousand millions and the lives of a hundred
thousand men - which has become lost in this unaccountable fashion."
"Have you informed the sender?"
"Yes, sir, a cipher telegram has been despatched."
"Perhaps he desires the publication of the letter."
"No, sir, we have strong reason to believe that he already understands
that he has acted in an indiscreet and hot-headed manner. It would be a
greater blow to him and to his country than to us if this letter were to
"If this is so, whose interest is it that, the letter should come out?
Why should anyone desire to steal it or to publish it?"
"There, Mr. Holmes, you take me into regions of high international
politics. But if you consider the European situation you will have no
difficulty in perceiving the motive. The whole of Europe is an armed
camp. There is a double league which makes a fair balance of military
power. Great Britain holds the scales. If Britain were driven into
war with one confederacy, it would assure the supremacy of the other
confederacy, whether they joined in the war or not. Do you follow?"
"Very clearly. It is then the interest of the enemies of this potentate
to secure and publish this letter, so as to make a breach between his
country and ours?"
"And to whom would this document be sent if it fell into the hands of an
"To any of the great Chancelleries of Europe. It is probably speeding on
its way thither at the present instant as fast as steam can take it."
Mr. Trelawney Hope dropped his head on his chest and groaned aloud. The
Premier placed his hand kindly upon his shoulder.
"It is your misfortune, my dear fellow. No one can blame you. There is
no precaution which you have neglected. Now, Mr. Holmes, you are in full
possession of the facts. What course do you recommend?"
Holmes shook his head mournfully.
"You think, sir, that unless this document is recovered there will be
"I think it is very probable."
"Then, sir, prepare for war."
"That is a hard saying, Mr. Holmes."
"Consider the facts, sir. It is inconceivable that it was taken after
eleven-thirty at night, since I understand that Mr. Hope and his wife
were both in the room from that hour until the loss was found out.
It was taken, then, yesterday evening between seven-thirty and
eleven-thirty, probably near the earlier hour, since whoever took it
evidently knew that it was there and would naturally secure it as early
as possible. Now, sir, if a document of this importance were taken at
that hour, where can it be now? No one has any reason to retain it. It
has been passed rapidly on to those who need it. What chance have we now
to overtake or even to trace it? It is beyond our reach."
The Prime Minister rose from the settee.
"What you say is perfectly logical, Mr. Holmes. I feel that the matter
is indeed out of our hands."
"Let us presume, for argument's sake, that the document was taken by the
maid or by the valet - - "
"They are both old and tried servants."
"I understand you to say that your room is on the second floor, that
there is no entrance from without, and that from within no one could go
up unobserved. It must, then, be somebody in the house who has taken it.
To whom would the thief take it? To one of several international spies
and secret agents, whose names are tolerably familiar to me. There are
three who may be said to be the heads of their profession. I will begin
my research by going round and finding if each of them is at his post.
If one is missing - especially if he has disappeared since last night - we
will have some indication as to where the document has gone."
"Why should he be missing?" asked the European Secretary. "He would take
the letter to an Embassy in London, as likely as not."
"I fancy not. These agents work independently, and their relations with
the Embassies are often strained."
The Prime Minister nodded his acquiescence.
"I believe you are right, Mr. Holmes. He would take so valuable a prize
to headquarters with his own hands. I think that your course of action
is an excellent one. Meanwhile, Hope, we cannot neglect all our other
duties on account of this one misfortune. Should there be any fresh
developments during the day we shall communicate with you, and you will
no doubt let us know the results of your own inquiries."
The two statesmen bowed and walked gravely from the room.
When our illustrious visitors had departed Holmes lit his pipe in
silence and sat for some time lost in the deepest thought. I had opened
the morning paper and was immersed in a sensational crime which had
occurred in London the night before, when my friend gave an exclamation,
sprang to his feet, and laid his pipe down upon the mantelpiece.
"Yes," said he, "there is no better way of approaching it. The situation
is desperate, but not hopeless. Even now, if we could be sure which of
them has taken it, it is just possible that it has not yet passed out of
his hands. After all, it is a question of money with these fellows, and
I have the British treasury behind me. If it's on the market I'll buy
it - if it means another penny on the income-tax. It is conceivable
that the fellow might hold it back to see what bids come from this
side before he tries his luck on the other. There are only those three
capable of playing so bold a game - there are Oberstein, La Rothiere, and
Eduardo Lucas. I will see each of them."
I glanced at my morning paper.
"Is that Eduardo Lucas of Godolphin Street?"
"You will not see him."
"He was murdered in his house last night."
My friend has so often astonished me in the course of our adventures
that it was with a sense of exultation that I realized how completely I
had astonished him. He stared in amazement, and then snatched the
paper from my hands. This was the paragraph which I had been engaged in
reading when he rose from his chair.
MURDER IN WESTMINSTER
A crime of mysterious character was committed last night at 16 Godolphin
Street, one of the old-fashioned and secluded rows of eighteenth century
houses which lie between the river and the Abbey, almost in the shadow
of the great Tower of the Houses of Parliament. This small but select
mansion has been inhabited for some years by Mr. Eduardo Lucas, well
known in society circles both on account of his charming personality
and because he has the well-deserved reputation of being one of the
best amateur tenors in the country. Mr. Lucas is an unmarried man,
thirty-four years of age, and his establishment consists of Mrs.
Pringle, an elderly housekeeper, and of Mitton, his valet. The former
retires early and sleeps at the top of the house. The valet was out for
the evening, visiting a friend at Hammersmith. From ten o'clock onward
Mr. Lucas had the house to himself. What occurred during that time has
not yet transpired, but at a quarter to twelve Police-constable Barrett,
passing along Godolphin Street observed that the door of No. 16 was
ajar. He knocked, but received no answer. Perceiving a light in the
front room, he advanced into the passage and again knocked, but without
reply. He then pushed open the door and entered. The room was in a state
of wild disorder, the furniture being all swept to one side, and one
chair lying on its back in the centre. Beside this chair, and still
grasping one of its legs, lay the unfortunate tenant of the house. He
had been stabbed to the heart and must have died instantly. The knife
with which the crime had been committed was a curved Indian dagger,
plucked down from a trophy of Oriental arms which adorned one of the
walls. Robbery does not appear to have been the motive of the crime, for
there had been no attempt to remove the valuable contents of the room.
Mr. Eduardo Lucas was so well known and popular that his violent and
mysterious fate will arouse painful interest and intense sympathy in a
widespread circle of friends.
"Well, Watson, what do you make of this?" asked Holmes, after a long
"It is an amazing coincidence."
"A coincidence! Here is one of the three men whom we had named as
possible actors in this drama, and he meets a violent death during the
very hours when we know that that drama was being enacted. The odds are
enormous against its being coincidence. No figures could express them.
No, my dear Watson, the two events are connected - MUST be connected. It
is for us to find the connection."
"But now the official police must know all."
"Not at all. They know all they see at Godolphin Street. They know - and
shall know - nothing of Whitehall Terrace. Only WE know of both events,
and can trace the relation between them. There is one obvious point
which would, in any case, have turned my suspicions against Lucas.
Godolphin Street, Westminster, is only a few minutes' walk from
Whitehall Terrace. The other secret agents whom I have named live in
the extreme West End. It was easier, therefore, for Lucas than for the
others to establish a connection or receive a message from the
European Secretary's household - a small thing, and yet where events are
compressed into a few hours it may prove essential. Halloa! what have we
Mrs. Hudson had appeared with a lady's card upon her salver. Holmes
glanced at it, raised his eyebrows, and handed it over to me.
"Ask Lady Hilda Trelawney Hope if she will be kind enough to step up,"
A moment later our modest apartment, already so distinguished that
morning, was further honoured by the entrance of the most lovely woman
in London. I had often heard of the beauty of the youngest daughter of
the Duke of Belminster, but no description of it, and no contemplation
of colourless photographs, had prepared me for the subtle, delicate
charm and the beautiful colouring of that exquisite head. And yet as
we saw it that autumn morning, it was not its beauty which would be the
first thing to impress the observer. The cheek was lovely but it was
paled with emotion, the eyes were bright but it was the brightness
of fever, the sensitive mouth was tight and drawn in an effort after
self-command. Terror - not beauty - was what sprang first to the eye as
our fair visitor stood framed for an instant in the open door.
"Has my husband been here, Mr. Holmes?"
"Yes, madam, he has been here."
"Mr. Holmes. I implore you not to tell him that I came here." Holmes
bowed coldly, and motioned the lady to a chair.
"Your ladyship places me in a very delicate position. I beg that you
will sit down and tell me what you desire, but I fear that I cannot make
any unconditional promise."
She swept across the room and seated herself with her back to the
window. It was a queenly presence - tall, graceful, and intensely
womanly. "Mr. Holmes," she said - and her white-gloved hands clasped and
unclasped as she spoke - "I will speak frankly to you in the hopes
that it may induce you to speak frankly in return. There is complete
confidence between my husband and me on all matters save one. That one
is politics. On this his lips are sealed. He tells me nothing. Now, I
am aware that there was a most deplorable occurrence in our house last
night. I know that a paper has disappeared. But because the matter is
political my husband refuses to take me into his complete confidence.
Now it is essential - essential, I say - that I should thoroughly
understand it. You are the only other person, save only these
politicians, who knows the true facts. I beg you then, Mr. Holmes, to
tell me exactly what has happened and what it will lead to. Tell me all,
Mr. Holmes. Let no regard for your client's interests keep you silent,
for I assure you that his interests, if he would only see it, would be
best served by taking me into his complete confidence. What was this
paper which was stolen?"
"Madam, what you ask me is really impossible."
She groaned and sank her face in her hands.
"You must see that this is so, madam. If your husband thinks fit to keep
you in the dark over this matter, is it for me, who has only learned the
true facts under the pledge of professional secrecy, to tell what he has
withheld? It is not fair to ask it. It is him whom you must ask."
"I have asked him. I come to you as a last resource. But without your
telling me anything definite, Mr. Holmes, you may do a great service if
you would enlighten me on one point."
"What is it, madam?"
"Is my husband's political career likely to suffer through this
"Well, madam, unless it is set right it may certainly have a very
"Ah!" She drew in her breath sharply as one whose doubts are resolved.
"One more question, Mr. Holmes. From an expression which my husband
dropped in the first shock of this disaster I understood that terrible
public consequences might arise from the loss of this document."
"If he said so, I certainly cannot deny it."
"Of what nature are they?"
"Nay, madam, there again you ask me more than I can possibly answer."
"Then I will take up no more of your time. I cannot blame you, Mr.
Holmes, for having refused to speak more freely, and you on your side
will not, I am sure, think the worse of me because I desire, even
against his will, to share my husband's anxieties. Once more I beg that
you will say nothing of my visit."
She looked back at us from the door, and I had a last impression of that
beautiful haunted face, the startled eyes, and the drawn mouth. Then she
"Now, Watson, the fair sex is your department," said Holmes, with a
smile, when the dwindling frou-frou of skirts had ended in the slam
of the front door. "What was the fair lady's game? What did she really
"Surely her own statement is clear and her anxiety very natural."
"Hum! Think of her appearance, Watson - her manner, her suppressed
excitement, her restlessness, her tenacity in asking questions. Remember
that she comes of a caste who do not lightly show emotion."
"She was certainly much moved."
"Remember also the curious earnestness with which she assured us that it
was best for her husband that she should know all. What did she mean by
that? And you must have observed, Watson, how she manoeuvred to have the
light at her back. She did not wish us to read her expression."
"Yes, she chose the one chair in the room."
"And yet the motives of women are so inscrutable. You remember the
woman at Margate whom I suspected for the same reason. No powder on her
nose - that proved to be the correct solution. How can you build on such
a quicksand? Their most trivial action may mean volumes, or their most
extraordinary conduct may depend upon a hairpin or a curling tongs.
"You are off?"
"Yes, I will while away the morning at Godolphin Street with our friends
of the regular establishment. With Eduardo Lucas lies the solution of
our problem, though I must admit that I have not an inkling as to what
form it may take. It is a capital mistake to theorize in advance of
the facts. Do you stay on guard, my good Watson, and receive any fresh
visitors. I'll join you at lunch if I am able."
All that day and the next and the next Holmes was in a mood which his
friends would call taciturn, and others morose. He ran out and ran in,
smoked incessantly, played snatches on his violin, sank into reveries,
devoured sandwiches at irregular hours, and hardly answered the casual
questions which I put to him. It was evident to me that things were not
going well with him or his quest. He would say nothing of the case, and
it was from the papers that I learned the particulars of the inquest,
and the arrest with the subsequent release of John Mitton, the valet of
the deceased. The coroner's jury brought in the obvious Wilful Murder,
but the parties remained as unknown as ever. No motive was suggested.
The room was full of articles of value, but none had been taken. The
dead man's papers had not been tampered with. They were carefully
examined, and showed that he was a keen student of international
politics, an indefatigable gossip, a remarkable linguist, and an
untiring letter writer. He had been on intimate terms with the leading
politicians of several countries. But nothing sensational was discovered
among the documents which filled his drawers. As to his relations with
women, they appeared to have been promiscuous but superficial. He had
many acquaintances among them, but few friends, and no one whom he
loved. His habits were regular, his conduct inoffensive. His death was
an absolute mystery and likely to remain so.
As to the arrest of John Mitton, the valet, it was a council of despair
as an alternative to absolute inaction. But no case could be sustained
against him. He had visited friends in Hammersmith that night. The ALIBI
was complete. It is true that he started home at an hour which should
have brought him to Westminster before the time when the crime was
discovered, but his own explanation that he had walked part of the way
seemed probable enough in view of the fineness of the night. He had
actually arrived at twelve o'clock, and appeared to be overwhelmed
by the unexpected tragedy. He had always been on good terms with his
master. Several of the dead man's possessions - notably a small case of
razors - had been found in the valet's boxes, but he explained that they
had been presents from the deceased, and the housekeeper was able to
corroborate the story. Mitton had been in Lucas's employment for three
years. It was noticeable that Lucas did not take Mitton on the Continent
with him. Sometimes he visited Paris for three months on end, but Mitton
was left in charge of the Godolphin Street house. As to the housekeeper,
she had heard nothing on the night of the crime. If her master had a
visitor he had himself admitted him.
So for three mornings the mystery remained, so far as I could follow it
in the papers. If Holmes knew more, he kept his own counsel, but, as
he told me that Inspector Lestrade had taken him into him into his
confidence in the case, I knew that he was in close touch with every
development. Upon the fourth day there appeared a long telegram from
Paris which seemed to solve the whole question.
A discovery has just been made by the Parisian police [said the DAILY
TELEGRAPH] which raises the veil which hung round the tragic fate of
Mr. Eduardo Lucas, who met his death by violence last Monday night
at Godolphin Street, Westminster. Our readers will remember that
the deceased gentleman was found stabbed in his room, and that some
suspicion attached to his valet, but that the case broke down on an
ALIBI. Yesterday a lady, who has been known as Mme. Henri Fournaye,
occupying a small villa in the Rue Austerlitz, was reported to the
authorities by her servants as being insane. An examination showed
she had indeed developed mania of a dangerous and permanent form.
On inquiry, the police have discovered that Mme. Henri Fournaye only
returned from a journey to London on Tuesday last, and there is
evidence to connect her with the crime at Westminster. A comparison of
photographs has proved conclusively that M. Henri Fournaye and Eduardo
Lucas were really one and the same person, and that the deceased had for
some reason lived a double life in London and Paris. Mme. Fournaye,
who is of Creole origin, is of an extremely excitable nature, and has
suffered in the past from attacks of jealousy which have amounted to
frenzy. It is conjectured that it was in one of these that she committed
the terrible crime which has caused such a sensation in London. Her
movements upon the Monday night have not yet been traced, but it is
undoubted that a woman answering to her description attracted much
attention at Charing Cross Station on Tuesday morning by the wildness
of her appearance and the violence of her gestures. It is probable,
therefore, that the crime was either committed when insane, or that
its immediate effect was to drive the unhappy woman out of her mind. At
present she is unable to give any coherent account of the past, and the
doctors hold out no hopes of the reestablishment of her reason. There is
evidence that a woman, who might have been Mme. Fournaye, was seen for
some hours upon Monday night watching the house in Godolphin Street.
"What do you think of that, Holmes?" I had read the account aloud to
him, while he finished his breakfast.
"My dear Watson," said he, as he rose from the table and paced up and
down the room, "You are most long-suffering, but if I have told you
nothing in the last three days, it is because there is nothing to tell.
Even now this report from Paris does not help us much."
"Surely it is final as regards the man's death."
"The man's death is a mere incident - a trivial episode - in comparison
with our real task, which is to trace this document and save a European
catastrophe. Only one important thing has happened in the last three
days, and that is that nothing has happened. I get reports almost hourly
from the government, and it is certain that nowhere in Europe is there
any sign of trouble. Now, if this letter were loose - no, it CAN'T be
loose - but if it isn't loose, where can it be? Who has it? Why is it
held back? That's the question that beats in my brain like a hammer. Was
it, indeed, a coincidence that Lucas should meet his death on the night
when the letter disappeared? Did the letter ever reach him? If so, why
is it not among his papers? Did this mad wife of his carry it off with
her? If so, is it in her house in Paris? How could I search for it
without the French police having their suspicions aroused? It is a case,
my dear Watson, where the law is as dangerous to us as the criminals
are. Every man's hand is against us, and yet the interests at stake
are colossal. Should I bring it to a successful conclusion, it will
certainly represent the crowning glory of my career. Ah, here is my
latest from the front!" He glanced hurriedly at the note which had
been handed in. "Halloa! Lestrade seems to have observed something of
interest. Put on your hat, Watson, and we will stroll down together to
It was my first visit to the scene of the crime - a high, dingy,
narrow-chested house, prim, formal, and solid, like the century which
gave it birth. Lestrade's bulldog features gazed out at us from the
front window, and he greeted us warmly when a big constable had opened
the door and let us in. The room into which we were shown was that in
which the crime had been committed, but no trace of it now remained save
an ugly, irregular stain upon the carpet. This carpet was a small square
drugget in the centre of the room, surrounded by a broad expanse
of beautiful, old-fashioned wood-flooring in square blocks, highly
polished. Over the fireplace was a magnificent trophy of weapons, one of
which had been used on that tragic night. In the window was a sumptuous
writing-desk, and every detail of the apartment, the pictures, the rugs,
and the hangings, all pointed to a taste which was luxurious to the
verge of effeminacy.
"Seen the Paris news?" asked Lestrade.
"Our French friends seem to have touched the spot this time. No doubt
it's just as they say. She knocked at the door - surprise visit, I
guess, for he kept his life in water-tight compartments - he let her in,