“We were to go to the theatre. The fog was so thick that a cab
was useless. We walked, and our way took us close to the office.
Suddenly he darted away into the fog.”
“Without a word?”
“He gave an exclamation; that was all. I waited but he never
returned. Then I walked home. Next morning, after the office
opened, they came to inquire. About twelve o’clock we heard the
terrible news. Oh, Mr. Holmes, if you could only, only save his
honour! It was so much to him.”
Holmes shook his head sadly.
“Come, Watson,” said he, “our ways lie elsewhere. Our next
station must be the office from which the papers were taken.
“It was black enough before against this young man, but our
inquiries make it blacker,” he remarked as the cab lumbered off.
“His coming marriage gives a motive for the crime. He naturally
wanted money. The idea was in his head, since he spoke about it.
He nearly made the girl an accomplice in the treason by telling
her his plans. It is all very bad.”
“But surely, Holmes, character goes for something? Then, again,
why should he leave the girl in the street and dart away to
commit a felony?”
“Exactly! There are certainly objections. But it is a
formidable case which they have to meet.”
Mr. Sidney Johnson, the senior clerk, met us at the office and
received us with that respect which my companion’s card always
commanded. He was a thin, gruff, bespectacled man of middle age,
his cheeks haggard, and his hands twitching from the nervous
strain to which he had been subjected.
“It is bad, Mr. Holmes, very bad! Have you heard of the death of
“We have just come from his house.”
“The place is disorganized. The chief dead, Cadogan West dead,
our papers stolen. And yet, when we closed our door on Monday
evening, we were as efficient an office as any in the government
service. Good God, it’s dreadful to think of! That West, of all
men, should have done such a thing!”
“You are sure of his guilt, then?”
“I can see no other way out of it. And yet I would have trusted
him as I trust myself.”
“At what hour was the office closed on Monday?”
“Did you close it?”
“I am always the last man out.”
“Where were the plans?”
“In that safe. I put them there myself.”
“Is there no watchman to the building?”
“There is, but he has other departments to look after as well.
He is an old soldier and a most trustworthy man. He saw nothing
that evening. Of course the fog was very thick.”
“Suppose that Cadogan West wished to make his way into the
building after hours; he would need three keys, would he not,
before the could reach the papers?”
“Yes, he would. The key of the outer door, the key of the
office, and the key of the safe.”
“Only Sir James Walter and you had those keys?”
“I had no keys of the doors–only of the safe.”
“Was Sir James a man who was orderly in his habits?”
“Yes, I think he was. I know that so far as those three keys are
concerned he kept them on the same ring. I have often seen them
“And that ring went with him to London?”
“He said so.”
“And your key never left your possession?”
“Then West, if he is the culprit, must have had a duplicate. And
yet none was found upon his body. One other point: if a clerk
in this office desired to sell the plans, would it not be simply
to copy the plans for himself than to take the originals, as was
“It would take considerable technical knowledge to copy the plans
in an effective way.”
“But I suppose either Sir James, or you, or West has that
“No doubt we had, but I beg you won’t try to drag me into the
matter, Mr. Holmes. What is the use of our speculating in this
way when the original plans were actually found on West?”
“Well, it is certainly singular that he should run the risk of
taking originals if he could safely have taken copies, which
would have equally served his turn.”
“Singular, no doubt–and yet he did so.”
“Every inquiry in this case reveals something inexplicable. Now
there are three papers still missing. They are, as I understand,
the vital ones.”
“Yes, that is so.”
“Do you mean to say that anyone holding these three papers, and
without the seven others, could construct a Bruce-Partington
“I reported to that effect to the Admiralty. But to-day I have
been over the drawings again, and I am not so sure of it. The
double valves with the automatic self-adjusting slots are drawn
in one of the papers which have been returned. Until the
foreigners had invented that for themselves they could not make
the boat. Of course they might soon get over the difficulty.”
“But the three missing drawings are the most important?”
“I think, with your permission, I will now take a stroll round
the premises. I do not recall any other question which I desired
He examined the lock of the safe, the door of the room, and
finally the iron shutters of the window. It was only when we
were on the lawn outside that his interest was strongly excited.
There was a laurel bush outside the window, and several of the
branches bore signs of having been twisted or snapped. He
examined them carefully with his lens, and then some dim and
vague marks upon the earth beneath. Finally he asked the chief
clerk to close the iron shutters, and he pointed out to me that
they hardly met in the centre, and that it would be possible for
anyone outside to see what was going on within the room.
“The indications are ruined by three days’ delay. They may mean
something or nothing. Well, Watson, I do not think that Woolwich
can help us further. It is a small crop which we have gathered.
Let us see if we can do better in London.”
Yet we added one more sheaf to our harvest before we left
Woolwich Station. The clerk in the ticket office was able to say
with confidence that he saw Cadogan West–whom he knew well by
sight–upon the Monday night, and that he went to London by the
8:15 to London Bridge. He was alone and took a single third-
class ticket. The clerk was struck at the time by his excited
and nervous manner. So shaky was he that he could hardly pick up
his change, and the clerk had helped him with it. A reference to
the timetable showed that the 8:15 was the first train which it
was possible for West to take after he had left the lady about
“Let us reconstruct, Watson,” said Holmes after half an hour of
silence. “I am not aware that in all our joint researches we
have ever had a case which was more difficult to get at. Every
fresh advance which we make only reveals a fresh ridge beyond.
And yet we have surely made some appreciable progress.
“The effect of our inquiries at Woolwich has in the main been
against young Cadogan West; but the indications at the window
would lend themselves to a more favourable hypothesis. Let us
suppose, for example, that he had been approached by some foreign
agent. It might have been done under such pledges as would have
prevented him from speaking of it, and yet would have affected
his thoughts in the direction indicated by his remarks to his
fiancee. Very good. We will now suppose that as he went to the
theatre with the young lady he suddenly, in the fog, caught a
glimpse of this same agent going in the direction of the office.
He was an impetuous man, quick in his decisions. Everything gave
way to his duty. He followed the man, reached the window, saw
the abstraction of the documents, and pursued the thief. In this
way we get over the objection that no one would take originals
when he could make copies. This outsider had to take originals.
So far it holds together.”
“What is the next step?”
“Then we come into difficulties. One would imagine that under
such circumstances the first act of young Cadogan West would be
to seize the villain and raise the alarm. Why did he not do so?
Could it have been an official superior who took the papers?
That would explain West’s conduct. Or could the chief have given
West the slip in the fog, and West started at once to London to
head him off from his own rooms, presuming that he knew where the
rooms were? The call must have been very pressing, since he left
his girl standing in the fog and made no effort to communicate
with her. Our scent runs cold here, and there is a vast gap
between either hypothesis and the laying of West’s body, with
seven papers in his pocket, on the roof of a Metropolitan train.
My instinct now is to work form the other end. If Mycroft has
given us the list of addresses we may be able to pick our man and
follow two tracks instead of one.”
Surely enough, a note awaited us at Baker Street. A government
messenger had brought it post-haste. Holmes glanced at it and
threw it over to me.
There are numerous small fry, but few who would handle so big an
affair. The only men worth considering are Adolph Mayer, of 13
Great George Street, Westminster; Louis La Rothiere, of Campden
Mansions, Notting Hill; and Hugo Oberstein, 13 Caulfield Gardens,
Kensington. The latter was known to be in town on Monday and is
now reported as having left. Glad to hear you have seen some
light. The Cabinet awaits your final report with the utmost
anxiety. Urgent representations have arrived from the very
highest quarter. The whole force of the State is at your back if
you should need it.
“I’m afraid,” said Holmes, smiling, “that all the queen’s horses
and all the queen’s men cannot avail in this matter.” He had
spread out his big map of London and leaned eagerly over it.
“Well, well,” said he presently with an exclamation of
satisfaction, “things are turning a little in our direction at
last. Why, Watson, I do honestly believe that we are going to
pull it off, after all.” He slapped me on the shoulder with a
sudden burst of hilarity. “I am going out now. It is only a
reconnaissance. I will do nothing serious without my trusted
comrade and biographer at my elbow. Do you stay here, and the
odds are that you will see me again in an hour or two. If time
hangs heavy get foolscap and a pen, and begin your narrative of
how we saved the State.”
I felt some reflection of his elation in my own mind, for I knew
well that he would not depart so far from his usual austerity of
demeanour unless there was good cause for exultation. All the
long November evening I waited, filled with impatience for his
return. At last, shortly after nine o’clock, there arrived a
messenger with a note:
Am dining at Goldini’s Restaurant, Gloucester Road, Kensington.
Please come at once and join me there. Bring with you a jemmy, a
dark lantern, a chisel, and a revolver.
It was a nice equipment for a respectable citizen to carry
through the dim, fog-draped streets. I stowed them all
discreetly away in my overcoat and drove straight to the address
given. There sat my friend at a little round table near the door
of the garish Italian restaurant.
“Have you had something to eat? Then join me in a coffee and
curacao. Try one of the proprietor’s cigars. They are less
poisonous than one would expect. Have you the tools?”
“They are here, in my overcoat.”
“Excellent. Let me give you a short sketch of what I have done,
with some indication of what we are about to do. Now it must be
evident to you, Watson, that this young man’s body was PLACED on
the roof of the train. That was clear from the instant that I
determined the fact that it was from the roof, and not from a
carriage, that he had fallen.”
“Could it not have been dropped from a bridge?”
“I should say it was impossible. If you examine the roofs you
will find that they are slightly rounded, and there is no railing
round them. Therefore, we can say for certain that young Cadogan
West was placed on it.”
“How could he be placed there?”
“That was the question which we had to answer. There is only one
possible way. You are aware that the Underground runs clear of
tunnels at some points in the West End. I had a vague memory
that as I have travelled by it I have occasionally seen windows
just above my head. Now, suppose that a train halted under such
a window, would there be any difficulty in laying a body upon the
“It seems most improbable.”
“We must fall back upon the old axiom that when all other
contingencies fail, whatever remains, however improbable, must be
the truth. Here all other contingencies HAVE failed. When I
found that the leading international agent, who had just left
London, lived in a row of houses which abutted upon the
Underground, I was so pleased that you were a little astonished
at my sudden frivolity.”
“Oh, that was it, was it?”
“Yes, that was it. Mr. Hugo Oberstein, of 13 Caulfield Gardens,
had become my objective. I began my operations at Gloucester
Road Station, where a very helpful official walked with me along
the track and allowed me to satisfy myself not only that the
back-stair windows of Caulfield Gardens open on the line but the
even more essential fact that, owing to the intersection of one
of the larger railways, the Underground trains are frequently
held motionless for some minutes at that very spot.”
“Splendid, Holmes! You have got it!”
“So far–so far, Watson. We advance, but the goal is afar.
Well, having seen the back of Caulfield Gardens, I visited the
front and satisfied myself that the bird was indeed flown. It is
a considerable house, unfurnished, so far as I could judge, in
the upper rooms. Oberstein lived there with a single valet, who
was probably a confederate entirely in his confidence. We must
bear in mind that Oberstein has gone to the Continent to dispose
of his booty, but not with any idea of flight; for he had no
reason to fear a warrant, and the idea of an amateur domiciliary
visit would certainly never occur to him. Yet that is precisely
what we are about to make.”
“Could we not get a warrant and legalize it?”
“Hardly on the evidence.”
“What can we hope to do?”
“We cannot tell what correspondence may be there.”
“I don’t like it, Holmes.”
“My dear fellow, you shall keep watch in the street. I’ll do the
criminal part. It’s not a time to stick at trifles. Think of
Mycroft’s note, of the Admiralty, the Cabinet, the exalted person
who waits for news. We are bound to go.”
My answer was to rise from the table.
“You are right, Holmes. We are bound to go.”
He sprang up and shook me by the hand.
“I knew you would not shrink at the last,” said he, and for a
moment I saw something in his eyes which was nearer to tenderness
than I had ever seen. The next instant he was his masterful,
practical self once more.
“It is nearly half a mile, but there is no hurry. Let us walk,”
said he. “Don’t drop the instruments, I beg. Your arrest as a
suspicious character would be a most unfortunate complication.”
Caulfield Gardens was one of those lines of flat-faced pillared,
and porticoed houses which are so prominent a product of the
middle Victorian epoch in the West End of London. Next door
there appeared to be a children’s party, for the merry buzz of
young voices and the clatter of a piano resounded through the
night. The fog still hung about and screened us with its
friendly shade. Holmes had lit his lantern and flashed it upon
the massive door.
“This is a serious proposition,” said he. “It is certainly
bolted as well as locked. We would do better in the area. There
is an excellent archway down yonder in case a too zealous
policeman should intrude. Give me a hand, Watson, and I’ll do
the same for you.”
A minute later we were both in the area. Hardly had we reached
the dark shadows before the step of the policeman was heard in
the fog above. As its soft rhythm died away, Holmes set to work
upon the lower door. I saw him stoop and strain until with a
sharp crash it flew open. We sprang through into the dark
passage, closing the area door behind us. Holmes let the way up
the curving, uncarpeted stair. His little fan of yellow light
shone upon a low window.
“Here we are, Watson–this must be the one.” He threw it open,
and as he did so there was a low, harsh murmur, growing steadily
into a loud roar as a train dashed past us in the darkness.
Holmes swept his light along the window-sill. It was thickly
coated with soot from the passing engines, but the black surface
was blurred and rubbed in places.
“You can see where they rested the body. Halloa, Watson! what is
this? There can be no doubt that it is a blood mark.” He was
pointing to faint discolourations along the woodwork of the
window. “Here it is on the stone of the stair also. The
demonstration is complete. Let us stay here until a train
We had not long to wait. The very next train roared from the
tunnel as before, but slowed in the open, and then, with a
creaking of brakes, pulled up immediately beneath us. It was not
four feet from the window-ledge to the roof of the carriages.
Holmes softly closed the window.
“So far we are justified,” said he. “What do you think of it,
“A masterpiece. You have never risen to a greater height.”
“I cannot agree with you there. From the moment that I conceived
the idea of the body being upon the roof, which surely was not a
very abstruse one, all the rest was inevitable. If it were not
for the grave interests involved the affair up to this point
would be insignificant. Our difficulties are still before us.
But perhaps we may find something here which may help us.”
We had ascended the kitchen stair and entered the suite of rooms
upon the first floor. One was a dining-room, severely furnished
and containing nothing of interest. A second was a bedroom,
which also drew blank. The remaining room appeared more
promising, and my companion settled down to a systematic
examination. It was littered with books and papers, and was
evidently used as a study. Swiftly and methodically Holmes
turned over the contents of drawer after drawer and cupboard
after cupboard, but no gleam of success came to brighten his
austere face. At the end of an hour he was no further than when
“The cunning dog has covered his tracks,” said he. “He has left
nothing to incriminate him. His dangerous correspondence has
been destroyed or removed. This is our last chance.”
It was a small tin cash-box which stood upon the writing-desk.
Holmes pried it open with his chisel. Several rolls of paper
were within, covered with figures and calculations, without any
note to show to what they referred. The recurring words, “water
pressure” and “pressure to the square inch” suggested some
possible relation to a submarine. Holmes tossed them all
impatiently aside. There only remained an envelope with some
small newspaper slips inside it. He shook them out on the table,
and at once I saw by his eager face that his hopes had been
“What’s this, Watson? Eh? What’s this? Record of a series of
messages in the advertisements of a paper. Daily Telegraph agony
column by the print and paper. Right-hand top corner of a page.
No dates–but messages arrange themselves. This must be the
“Hoped to hear sooner. Terms agreed to. Write fully to address
given on card.
“Too complex for description. Must have full report, Stuff
awaits you when goods delivered.
“Matter presses. Must withdraw offer unless contract completed.
Make appointment by letter. Will confirm by advertisement.
“Monday night after nine. Two taps. Only ourselves. Do not be
so suspicious. Payment in hard cash when goods delivered.
“A fairly complete record, Watson! If we could only get at the
man at the other end!” He sat lost in thought, tapping his
fingers on the table. Finally he sprang to his feet.
“Well, perhaps it won’t be so difficult, after all. There is
nothing more to be done here, Watson. I think we might drive
round to the offices of the Daily Telegraph, and so bring a good
day’s work to a conclusion.”
Mycroft Holmes and Lestrade had come round by appointment after
breakfast next day and Sherlock Holmes had recounted to them our
proceedings of the day before. The professional shook his head
over our confessed burglary.
“We can’t do these things in the force, Mr. Holmes,” said he.
“No wonder you get results that are beyond us. But some of these
days you’ll go too far, and you’ll find yourself and your friend
“For England, home and beauty–eh, Watson? Martyrs on the altar
of our country. But what do you think of it, Mycroft?”
“Excellent, Sherlock! Admirable! But what use will you make of
Holmes picked up the Daily Telegraph which lay upon the table.
“Have you seen Pierrot’s advertisement to-day?”
“What? Another one?”
“Yes, here it is:
“To-night. Same hour. Same place. Two taps. Most vitally
important. Your own safety at stake.
“By George!” cried Lestrade. “If he answers that we’ve got him!”
“That was my idea when I put it in. I think if you could both
make it convenient to come with us about eight o’clock to
Caulfield Gardens we might possibly get a little nearer to a
One of the most remarkable characteristics of Sherlock Holmes was
his power of throwing his brain out of action and switching all
his thoughts on to lighter things whenever he had convinced
himself that he could no longer work to advantage. I remember
that during the whole of that memorable day he lost himself in a
monograph which he had undertaken upon the Polyphonic Motets of
Lassus. For my own part I had none of this power of detachment,
and the day, in consequence, appeared to be interminable. The
great national importance of the issue, the suspense in high
quarters, the direct nature of the experiment which we were
trying–all combined to work upon my nerve. It was a relief to
me when at last, after a light dinner, we set out upon our
expedition. Lestrade and Mycroft met us by appointment at the
outside of Gloucester Road Station. The area door of Oberstein’s
house had been left open the night before, and it was necessary
for me, as Mycroft Holmes absolutely and indignantly declined to
climb the railings, to pass in and open the hall door. By nine
o’clock we were all seated in the study, waiting patently for our
An hour passed and yet another. When eleven struck, the measured
beat of the great church clock seemed to sound the dirge of our
hopes. Lestrade and Mycroft were fidgeting in their seats and
looking twice a minute at their watches. Holmes sat silent and
composed, his eyelids half shut, but every sense on the alert.
He raised his head with a sudden jerk.
“He is coming,” said he.
There had been a furtive step past the door. Now it returned.
We heard a shuffling sound outside, and then two sharp taps with
the knocker. Holmes rose, motioning us to remain seated. The gas
in the hall was a mere point of light. He opened the outer door,
and then as a dark figure slipped past him he closed and fastened
it. “This way!” we heard him say, and a moment later our man
stood before us. Holmes had followed him closely, and as the man
turned with a cry of surprise and alarm he caught him by the
collar and threw him back into the room. Before our prisoner had
recovered his balance the door was shut and Holmes standing with
his back against it. The man glared round him, staggered, and
fell senseless upon the floor. With the shock, his broad-brimmed
hat flew from his head, his cravat slipped sown from his lips,
and there were the long light beard and the soft, handsome
delicate features of Colonel Valentine Walter.
Holmes gave a whistle of surprise.
“You can write me down an ass this time, Watson,” said he. “This
was not the bird that I was looking for.”
“Who is he?” asked Mycroft eagerly.
“The younger brother of the late Sir James Walter, the head of
the Submarine Department. Yes, yes; I see the fall of the cards.
He is coming to. I think that you had best leave his examination
We had carried the prostrate body to the sofa. Now our prisoner
sat up, looked round him with a horror-stricken face, and passed
his hand over his forehead, like one who cannot believe his own
“What is this?” he asked. “I came here to visit Mr. Oberstein.”
“Everything is known, Colonel Walter,” said Holmes. “How an
English gentleman could behave in such a manner is beyond my
comprehension. But your whole correspondence and relations with
Oberstein are within our knowledge. So also are the
circumstances connected with the death of young Cadogan West.
Let me advise you to gain at least the small credit for
repentance and confession, since there are still some details
which we can only learn from your lips.”
The man groaned and sank his face in his hands. We waited, but
he was silent.
“I can assure you,” said Holmes, “that every essential is already
known. We know that you were pressed for money; that you took an
impress of the keys which your brother held; and that you entered
into a correspondence with Oberstein, who answered your letters
through the advertisement columns of the Daily Telegraph. We are
aware that you went down to the office in the fog on Monday
night, but that you were seen and followed by young Cadogan West,
who had probably some previous reason to suspect you. He saw
your theft, but could not give the alarm, as it was just possible
that you were taking the papers to your brother in London.
Leaving all his private concerns, like the good citizen that he
was, he followed you closely in the fog and kept at your heels
until you reached this very house. There he intervened, and then
it was, Colonel Walter, that to treason you added the more
terrible crime of murder.”
“I did not! I did not! Before God I swear that I did not!”
cried our wretched prisoner.
“Tell us, then, how Cadogan West met his end before you laid him
upon the roof of a railway carriage.”
“I will. I swear to you that I will. I did the rest. I confess
it. It was just as you say. A Stock Exchange debt had to be
paid. I needed the money badly. Oberstein offered me five
thousand. It was to save myself from ruin. But as to murder, I
am as innocent as you.”
“What happened, then?”
“He had his suspicions before, and he followed me as you
describe. I never knew it until I was at the very door. It was
thick fog, and one could not see three yards. I had given two
taps and Oberstein had come to the door. The young man rushed up
and demanded to know what we were about to do with the papers.
Oberstein had a short life-preserver. He always carried it with
him. As West forced his way after us into the house Oberstein
struck him on the head. The blow was a fatal one. He was dead
within five minutes. There he lay in the hall, and we were at
our wit’s end what to do. Then Oberstein had this idea about the
trains which halted under his back window. But first he examined
the papers which I had brought. He said that three of them were
essential, and that he must keep them. ‘You cannot keep them,’
said I. ‘There will be a dreadful row at Woolwich if they are
not returned.’ ‘I must keep them,’ said he, ‘for they are so
technical that it is impossible in the time to make copies.’
‘Then they must all go back together to-night,’ said I. He
thought for a little, and then he cried out that he had it.
‘Three I will keep,’ said he. ‘The others we will stuff into the
pocket of this young man. When he is found the whole business
will assuredly be put to his account.’ I could see no other way
out of it, so we did as he suggested. We waited half an hour at
the window before a train stopped. It was so thick that nothing
could be seen, and we had no difficulty in lowering West’s body
on to the train. That was the end of the matter so far as I was
“And your brother?”
“He said nothing, but he had caught me once with his keys, and I
think that he suspected. I read in his eyes that he suspected.
As you know, he never held up his head again.”
There was silence in the room. It was broken by Mycroft Holmes.
“Can you not make reparation? It would ease your conscience, and
possibly your punishment.”
“What reparation can I make?”
“Where is Oberstein with the papers?”
“I do not know.”
“Did he give you no address?”
“He said that letters to the Hotel du Louvre, Paris, would
eventually reach him.”
“Then reparation is still within your power,” said Sherlock
“I will do anything I can. I owe this fellow no particular good-
will. He has been my ruin and my downfall.”
“Here are paper and pen. Sit at this desk and write to my
dictation. Direct the envelope to the address given. That is
right. Now the letter:
“With regard to our transaction, you will no doubt have observed
by now that one essential detail is missing. I have a tracing
which will make it complete. This has involved me in extra
trouble, however, and I must ask you for a further advance of
five hundred pounds. I will not trust it to the post, nor will I
take anything but gold or notes. I would come to you abroad, but
it would excite remark if I left the country at present.
Therefore I shall expect to meet you in the smoking-room of the
Charing Cross Hotel at noon on Saturday. Remember that only
English notes, or gold, will be taken.
“That will do very well. I shall be very much surprised if it
does not fetch our man.”
And it did! It is a matter of history–that secret history of a
nation which is often so much more intimate and interesting than
its public chronicles–that Oberstein, eager to complete the coup
of his lifetime, came to the lure and was safely engulfed for
fifteen years in a British prison. In his trunk were found the
invaluable Bruce-Partington plans, which he had put up for
auction in all the naval centres of Europe.
Colonel Walter died in prison towards the end of the second year
of his sentence. As to Holmes, he returned refreshed to his
monograph upon the Polyphonic Motets of Lassus, which has since
been printed for private circulation, and is said by experts to
be the last word upon the subject. Some weeks afterwards I
learned incidentally that my friend spent a day at Windsor,
whence be returned with a remarkably fine emerald tie-pin. When
I asked him if he had bought it, he answered that it was a
present from a certain gracious lady in whose interests he had
once been fortunate enough to carry out a small commission. He
said no more; but I fancy that I could guess at that lady’s
august name, and I have little doubt that the emerald pin will
forever recall to my friend’s memory the adventure of the Bruce-