- 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
Five hundred pounds for this
particular job. Of course he has a salary as well.
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 Kings English as well as on the English king. Must you really go? He may
be here any moment.
No. Im 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 Yorks 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
No, thanks. But it looks like
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 Barons 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
The secretary chuckled.
She might almost personify
Britannia, said he, with her complete self-absorption 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 his head.
 You can give me the glad hand to-night,
mister, he cried. Im bringing home the bacon at last.
Same as I said in my cable. Every
last one of them, semaphore, lamp code, Marconia copy, mind you, not the original.
That was too dangerous. But its 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.
Im 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 its all safe about the copy?
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 half-smoked, 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 dont 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 can-opener. If Id known that any letter of mine was goin to lie loose in a
thing like that Id have been a mug to write to you at all.
It would puzzle any crook to force
that safe, Von Bork answered. You wont cut that metal with any
But the lock?
No, its 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
double-radiating disc round the keyhole. This outer one is for the letters, the
inner one for the figures.
Well, well, thats fine.
So its 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?
Its beyond me.
Well, I chose August for the word,
and 1914 for the figures, and here we are.
The Americans 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 Im shutting down to-morrow morning.
Well, I guess youll have to
fix me up also. Im not staying in this gol-darned 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.
Id rather watch him from over the water.
But youre an American
Well, so was Jack James an American
citizen, but hes doing time in Portland all the same. It cuts no ice with a British
copper to tell him youre an American citizen. Its British law and order
over here, says he. By the way, mister, talking of Jack James, it seems to me you
dont do much to cover your men.
What do you mean? Von Bork
 Well, you are their employer, aint you?
Its up to you to see that they dont fall down. But they do fall down, and when
did you ever pick them up? Theres James
It was Jamess own fault. You
know that yourself. He was too self-willed for the job.
James was a boneheadI give
you that. Then there was Hollis.
The man was mad.
Well, he went a bit woozy towards
the end. Its 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
Von Bork started violently, and his ruddy
face turned a shade paler.
What about Steiner?
Well, theyve got him,
thats all. They raided his store last night, and he and his papers are all in
Portsmouth jail. Youll go off and he, poor devil, will have to stand the racket, and
lucky if he gets off with his life. Thats 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. Thats the worst blow yet.
Well, you nearly had a worse one,
for I believe they are not far off me.
You dont 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 youve lost since I signed on with you, and I know the name of the
sixth if I dont get a move on. How do you explain it, and aint you ashamed to
see your men go down like this?
Von Bork flushed crimson.
How dare you speak in such a
If I didnt dare things,
mister, I wouldnt be in your service. But Ill tell you straight what is in my
mind. Ive heard that with you German politicians when an agent has done his work you
are not sorry to see him put away.
Von Bork sprang to his feet.
Do you dare to suggest that I have
given away my own agents!
I dont stand for that,
mister, but theres a stool pigeon or a cross somewhere, and its up to you to
find out where it is. Anyhow I am taking no more chances. Its 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. Youve done splendid
work and taken risks, and I cant 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.
Ill take that book and pack it with the rest.
The American held the small parcel in his
hand, but made no motion to give it up.
What about the dough? he
The boodle. The reward. The £500.
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. Its cost me two hundred pound from first to last, so
it isnt likely Id give it up without gettin my wad.
Von Bork smiled with some bitterness.
You dont seem to have a very high opinion of my honour, said he,
you want the money before you give up the book.
Well, mister, it is a business
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 dont 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. Theres 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 Josefs 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 Borks 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 Claridges Hotel.
Very good, sir.
I suppose you have everything ready
Yes, sir. He posted seven letters
to-day. I have the addresses as usual.
Very good, Martha. I will look into
them to-morrow. Good-night. These papers, he continued as the old lady vanished,
are not of very great importance, 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 through 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,
Watsonhe stopped his work and took his old friend by the
shouldersIve 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 littlesave for
that horrible goatee.
These are the sacrifices one makes
for ones 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 Claridges to-morrow as I was before
this American stuntI 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 Downs.
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
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 Holmess
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
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
No, no, it is not so bad as
that, said Holmes, smiling. As my speech surely shows you, Mr. Altamont of
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 your 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 mothers elder brother. It was I
Von Bork sat up in amazement.
There is only one man, he
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 ruin forever!
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
There are a good many other points
of detail which will, no doubt, come to light in good time. But you 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 your 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
But all amenities were wasted upon the
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 the valise.
You are a private individual. You
have no warrant for my arrest. The whole proceeding is absolutely illegal and
Absolutely, said Holmes.
Kidnapping a German subject.
And stealing his private
Well, you realize your position,
you and your accomplice here. If I were to shout for help as we pass through the
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 wont be
out of your way. Stand with me here upon the terrace, for it may be the last quiet talk
that we shall ever have.
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.
Theres an east wind coming,
I think not, Holmes. It is very
Good old Watson! You are the one
fixed point in a changing age. Theres 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 its Gods 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 its 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.