THE END OF THE ISLANDER
OUR meal was a merry one. Holmes could talk exceedingly well when he
chose, and that night he did choose. He appeared to be in a state of nervous exaltation. I
have never known him so brilliant. He spoke on a quick succession of subjectson
miracle plays, on mediaeval pottery, on Stradivarius violins, on the Buddhism of Ceylon,
and on the warships of the futurehandling each as though he had made a special study
of it. His bright humour marked the reaction from his black depression of the preceding
days. Athelney Jones proved to be a sociable soul in his hours of relaxation and faced his
dinner with the air of a bon vivant. For myself, I felt elated at the thought that we were
nearing the end of our task, and I caught 
something of Holmess gaiety. None of us alluded during dinner to the cause which had
brought us together.
When the cloth was cleared Holmes glanced at his watch and
filled up three glasses with port.
One bumper, said he, to the success of our
little expedition. And now it is high time we were off. Have you a pistol, Watson?
I have my old service-revolver in my desk.
You had best take it, then. It is well to be prepared. I
see that the cab is at the door. I ordered it for half-past six.
It was a little past seven before we reached the Westminster
wharf and found our launch awaiting us. Holmes eyed it critically.
Is there anything to mark it as a police-boat?
Yes, that green lamp at the side.
Then take it off.
The small change was made, we stepped on board, and the ropes
were cast off. Jones, Holmes, and I sat in the stern. There was one man at the rudder, one
to tend the engines, and two burly police-inspectors forward.
Where to? asked Jones.
To the Tower. Tell them to stop opposite to
Our craft was evidently a very fast one. We shot past the long
lines of loaded barges as though they were stationary. Holmes smiled with satisfaction as
we overhauled a river steamer and left her behind us.
We ought to be able to catch anything on the
river, he said.
Well, hardly that. But there are not many launches to
We shall have to catch the Aurora, and she has
a name for being a clipper. I will tell you how the land lies, Watson. You recollect how
annoyed I was at being baulked by so small a thing?
Well, I gave my mind a thorough rest by plunging into a
chemical analysis. One of our greatest statesmen has said that a change of work is the
best rest. So it is. When I had succeeded in dissolving the hydrocarbon which I was at
work at, I came back to our problem of the Sholtos, and thought the whole matter out
again. My boys had been up the river and down the river without result. The launch was not
at any landing-stage or wharf, nor had it returned. Yet it could hardly have been scuttled
to hide their traces, though that always remained as a possible hypothesis if all else
failed. I knew that this man Small had a certain degree of low cunning, but I did not
think him capable of anything in the nature of delicate finesse. That is usually a product
of higher education. I then reflected that since he had certainly been in London some
timeas we had evidence that he maintained a continual watch over Pondicherry
Lodgehe could hardly leave at a moments notice, but would need some little
time, if it were only a day, to arrange his affairs. That was the balance of probability,
at any rate.
It seems to me to be a little weak, said I;
it is more probable that he had arranged his affairs before ever he set out upon his
No, I hardly think so. This lair of his would be too
valuable a retreat in case of need for him to give it up until he was sure that he could
do without it. But a second consideration struck me. Jonathan Small must have felt that
the peculiar appearance of his companion, however much he may have top-coated him, would
give rise to gossip, and possibly be associated with this Norwood tragedy. He was  quite sharp enough to see
that. They had started from their headquarters under cover of darkness, and he would wish
to get back before it was broad light. Now, it was past three oclock, according to
Mrs. Smith, when they got the boat. It would be quite bright, and people would be about in
an hour or so. Therefore, I argued, they did not go very far. They paid Smith well to hold
his tongue, reserved his launch for the final escape, and hurried to their lodgings with
the treasure-box. In a couple of nights, when they had time to see what view the papers
took, and whether there was any suspicion, they would make their way under cover of
darkness to some ship at Gravesend or in the Downs, where no doubt they had already
arranged for passages to America or the Colonies.
But the launch? They could not have taken that to their
Quite so. I argued that the launch must be no great way
off, in spite of its invisibility. I then put myself in the place of Small and looked at
it as a man of his capacity would. He would probably consider that to send back the launch
or to keep it at a wharf would make pursuit easy if the police did happen to get on his
track. How, then, could he conceal the launch and yet have her at hand when wanted? I
wondered what I should do myself if I were in his shoes. I could only think of one way of
doing it. I might hand the launch over to some boat-builder or repairer, with directions
to make a trifling change in her. She would then be removed to his shed or yard, and so be
effectually concealed, while at the same time I could have her at a few hours
That seems simple enough.
It is just these very simple things which are extremely
liable to be overlooked. However, I determined to act on the idea. I started at once in
this harmless seamans rig and inquired at all the yards down the river. I drew blank
at fifteen, but at the sixteenthJacobsonsI learned that the Aurora
had been handed over to them two days ago by a wooden-legged man, with some trivial
directions as to her rudder. There aint naught amiss with her rudder,
said the foreman. There she lies, with the red streaks. At that moment who
should come down but Mordecai Smith, the missing owner. He was rather the worse for
liquor. I should not, of course, have known him, but he bellowed out his name and the name
of his launch. I want her to-night at eight oclock, said
heeight oclock sharp, mind, for I have two gentlemen who wont be
kept waiting. They had evidently paid him well, for he was very flush of money,
chucking shillings about to the men. I followed him some distance, but he subsided into an
alehouse; so I went back to the yard, and, happening to pick up one of my boys on the way,
I stationed him as a sentry over the launch. He is to stand at the waters edge and
wave his handkerchief to us when they start. We shall be lying off in the stream, and it
will be a strange thing if we do not take men, treasure, and all.
You have planned it all very neatly, whether they are
the right men or not, said Jones; but if the affair were in my hands I should
have had a body of police in Jacobsons Yard and arrested them when they came
Which would have been never. This man Small is a pretty
shrewd fellow. He would send a scout on ahead, and if anything made him suspicious he
would lie snug for another week.
But you might have stuck to Mordecai Smith, and so been
led to their hiding-place, said I.
In that case I should have wasted my day. I think that
it is a hundred to one against Smith knowing where they live. As long as he has liquor and
good pay,  why should
he ask questions? They send him messages what to do. No, I thought over every possible
course, and this is the best.
While this conversation had been proceeding, we had been
shooting the long series of bridges which span the Thames. As we passed the City the last
rays of the sun were gilding the cross upon the summit of St. Pauls. It was twilight
before we reached the Tower.
That is Jacobsons Yard, said Holmes,
pointing to a bristle of masts and rigging on the Surrey side. Cruise gently up and
down here under cover of this string of lighters. He took a pair of night-glasses
from his pocket and gazed some time at the shore. I see my sentry at his post,
he remarked, but no sign of a handkerchief.
Suppose we go downstream a short way and lie in wait for
them, said Jones eagerly.
We were all eager by this time, even the policemen and
stokers, who had a very vague idea of what was going forward.
We have no right to take anything for granted,
Holmes answered. It is certainly ten to one that they go downstream, but we cannot
be certain. From this point we can see the entrance of the yard, and they can hardly see
us. It will be a clear night and plenty of light. We must stay where we are. See how the
folk swarm over yonder in the gaslight.
They are coming from work in the yard.
Dirty-looking rascals, but I suppose every one has some
little immortal spark concealed about him. You would not think it, to look at them. There
is no a priori probability about it. A strange enigma is man!
Someone calls him a soul concealed in an animal, I
Winwood Reade is good upon the subject, said
Holmes. He remarks that, while the individual man is an insoluble puzzle, in the
aggregate he becomes a mathematical certainty. You can, for example, never foretell what
any one man will do, but you can say with precision what an average number will be up to.
Individuals vary, but percentages remain constant. So says the statistician. But do I see
a handkerchief? Surely there is a white flutter over yonder.
Yes, it is your boy, I cried. I can see him
And there is the Aurora, exclaimed
Holmes, and going like the devil! Full speed ahead, engineer. Make after that launch
with the yellow light. By heaven, I shall never forgive myself if she proves to have the
heels of us!
She had slipped unseen through the yard-entrance and passed
between two or three small craft, so that she had fairly got her speed up before we saw
her. Now she was flying down the stream, near in to the shore, going at a tremendous rate.
Jones looked gravely at her and shook his head.
She is very fast, he said. I doubt if we
shall catch her.
We must catch her! cried Holmes between
his teeth. Heap it on, stokers! Make her do all she can! If we burn the boat we must