Its the Napoleon bust business again, said
Lestrade. You seemed interested last night, Mr. Holmes, so I thought perhaps you
would be glad to be present now that the affair has taken a very much graver turn.
What has it turned to, then?
To murder. Mr. Harker, will you tell these gentlemen
exactly what has occurred?
The man in the dressing-gown turned upon us with a most
Its an extraordinary thing, said he,
that all my life I have been collecting other peoples news, and now that a
real piece of news has come my own way I am so confused and bothered that I cant put
two words together. If I had come in here as a journalist, I should have interviewed
myself and had two columns in every evening paper. As it is, I am giving away valuable
copy by telling my story over and over to a string of different people, and I can make no
use of it myself. However, Ive heard your name, Mr. Sherlock Holmes, and if
youll only explain this queer business, I shall be paid for my trouble in telling
you the story.
Holmes sat down and listened.
It all seems to centre round that bust of Napoleon which
I bought for this very room about four months ago. I picked it up cheap from Harding
Brothers, two doors from the High Street Station. A great deal of my journalistic work is
done at night, and I often write until the early morning. So it was to-day. I was sitting  in my den, which is at the
back of the top of the house, about three oclock, when I was convinced that I heard
some sounds downstairs. I listened, but they were not repeated, and I concluded that they
came from outside. Then suddenly, about five minutes later, there came a most horrible
yellthe most dreadful sound, Mr. Holmes, that ever I heard. It will ring in my ears
as long as I live. I sat frozen with horror for a minute or two. Then I seized the poker
and went downstairs. When I entered this room I found the window wide open, and I at once
observed that the bust was gone from the mantelpiece. Why any burglar should take such a
thing passes my understanding, for it was only a plaster cast and of no real value
You can see for yourself that anyone going out through
that open window could reach the front doorstep by taking a long stride. This was clearly
what the burglar had done, so I went round and opened the door. Stepping out into the
dark, I nearly fell over a dead man, who was lying there. I ran back for a light, and
there was the poor fellow, a great gash in his throat and the whole place swimming in
blood. He lay on his back, his knees drawn up, and his mouth horribly open. I shall see
him in my dreams. I had just time to blow on my police-whistle, and then I must have
fainted, for I knew nothing more until I found the policeman standing over me in the
Well, who was the murdered man? asked Holmes.
Theres nothing to show who he was, said
Lestrade. You shall see the body at the mortuary, but we have made nothing of it up
to now. He is a tall man, sunburned, very powerful, not more than thirty. He is poorly
dressed, and yet does not appear to be a labourer. A horn-handled clasp knife was lying in
a pool of blood beside him. Whether it was the weapon which did the deed, or whether it
belonged to the dead man, I do not know. There was no name on his clothing, and nothing in
his pockets save an apple, some string, a shilling map of London, and a photograph. Here
It was evidently taken by a snapshot from a small camera. It
represented an alert, sharp-featured simian man, with thick eyebrows and a very peculiar
projection of the lower part of the face, like the muzzle of a baboon.
And what became of the bust? asked Holmes, after a
careful study of this picture.
We had news of it just before you came. It has been
found in the front garden of an empty house in Campden House Road. It was broken into
fragments. I am going round now to see it. Will you come?
Certainly. I must just take one look round. He
examined the carpet and the window. The fellow had either very long legs or was a
most active man, said he. With an area beneath, it was no mean feat to reach
that window-ledge and open that window. Getting back was comparatively simple. Are you
coming with us to see the remains of your bust, Mr. Harker?
The disconsolate journalist had seated himself at a
I must try and make something of it, said he,
though I have no doubt that the first editions of the evening papers are out already
with full details. Its like my luck! You remember when the stand fell at Doncaster?
Well, I was the only journalist in the stand, and my journal the only one that had no
account of it, for I was too shaken to write it. And now Ill be too late with a
murder done on my own doorstep.
As we left the room, we heard his pen travelling shrilly over
spot where the fragments of the bust had been found was only a few hundred yards away. For
the first time our eyes rested upon this presentment of the great emperor, which seemed to
raise such frantic and destructive hatred in the mind of the unknown. It lay scattered, in
splintered shards, upon the grass. Holmes picked up several of them and examined them
carefully. I was convinced, from his intent face and his purposeful manner, that at last
he was upon a clue.
Well? asked Lestrade.
Holmes shrugged his shoulders.
We have a long way to go yet, said he. And
yetand yetwell, we have some suggestive facts to act upon. The possession of
this trifling bust was worth more, in the eyes of this strange criminal, than a human
life. That is one point. Then there is the singular fact that he did not break it in the
house, or immediately outside the house, if to break it was his sole object.
He was rattled and bustled by meeting this other fellow.
He hardly knew what he was doing.
Well, thats likely enough. But I wish to call your
attention very particularly to the position of this house, in the garden of which the bust
Lestrade looked about him.
It was an empty house, and so he knew that he would not
be disturbed in the garden.
Yes, but there is another empty house farther up the
street which he must have passed before he came to this one. Why did he not break it
there, since it is evident that every yard that he carried it increased the risk of
someone meeting him?
I give it up, said Lestrade.
Holmes pointed to the street lamp above our heads.
He could see what he was doing here, and he could not
there. That was his reason.
By Jove! thats true, said the detective.
Now that I come to think of it, Dr. Barnicots bust was broken not far from his
red lamp. Well, Mr. Holmes, what are we to do with that fact?
To remember itto docket it. We may come on
something later which will bear upon it. What steps do you propose to take now,
The most practical way of getting at it, in my opinion,
is to identify the dead man. There should be no difficulty about that. When we have found
who he is and who his associates are, we should have a good start in learning what he was
doing in Pitt Street last night, and who it was who met him and killed him on the doorstep
of Mr. Horace Harker. Dont you think so?
No doubt; and yet it is not quite the way in which I
should approach the case.
What would you do then?
Oh, you must not let me influence you in any way. I
suggest that you go on your line and I on mine. We can compare notes afterwards, and each
will supplement the other.
Very good, said Lestrade.
If you are going back to Pitt Street, you might see Mr.
Horace Harker. Tell him for me that I have quite made up my mind, and that it is certain
that a dangerous homicidal lunatic, with Napoleonic delusions, was in his house last
night. It will be useful for his article.
dont seriously believe that?
Dont I? Well, perhaps I dont. But I am sure
that it will interest Mr. Horace Harker and the subscribers of the Central Press
Syndicate. Now, Watson, I think that we shall find that we have a long and rather complex
days work before us. I should be glad, Lestrade, if you could make it convenient to
meet us at Baker Street at six oclock this evening. Until then I should like to keep
this photograph, found in the dead mans pocket. It is possible that I may have to
ask your company and assistance upon a small expedition which will have to be undertaken
to-night, if my chain of reasoning should prove to be correct. Until then good-bye and
Sherlock Holmes and I walked together to the High Street,
where we stopped at the shop of Harding Brothers, whence the bust had been purchased. A
young assistant informed us that Mr. Harding would be absent until afternoon, and that he
was himself a newcomer, who could give us no information. Holmess face showed his
disappointment and annoyance.
Well, well, we cant expect to have it all our own
way, Watson, he said, at last. We must come back in the afternoon, if Mr.
Harding will not be here until then. I am, as you have no doubt surmised, endeavouring to
trace these busts to their source, in order to find if there is not something peculiar
which may account for their remarkable fate. Let us make for Mr. Morse Hudson, of the
Kennington Road, and see if he can throw any light upon the problem.
A drive of an hour brought us to the picture-dealers
establishment. He was a small, stout man with a red face and a peppery manner.
Yes, sir. On my very counter, sir, said he.
What we pay rates and taxes for I dont know, when any ruffian can come in and
break ones goods. Yes, sir, it was I who sold Dr. Barnicot his two statues.
Disgraceful, sir! A Nihilist plotthats what I make it. No one but an anarchist
would go about breaking statues. Red republicansthats what I call em.
Who did I get the statues from? I dont see what that has to do with it. Well, if you
really want to know, I got them from Gelder & Co., in Church Street, Stepney. They are
a well-known house in the trade, and have been this twenty years. How many had I?
Threetwo and one are threetwo of Dr. Barnicots, and one smashed in broad
daylight on my own counter. Do I know that photograph? No, I dont. Yes, I do,
though. Why, its Beppo. He was a kind of Italian piece-work man, who made himself
useful in the shop. He could carve a bit, and gild and frame, and do odd jobs. The fellow
left me last week, and Ive heard nothing of him since. No, I dont know where
he came from nor where he went to. I had nothing against him while he was here. He was
gone two days before the bust was smashed.
Well, thats all we could reasonably expect from
Morse Hudson, said Holmes, as we emerged from the shop. We have this Beppo as
a common factor, both in Kennington and in Kensington, so that is worth a ten-mile drive.
Now, Watson, let us make for Gelder & Co., of Stepney, the source and origin of the
busts. I shall be surprised if we dont get some help down there.
In rapid succession we passed through the fringe of
fashionable London, hotel London, theatrical London, literary London, commercial London,
and, finally, maritime London, till we came to a riverside city of a hundred thousand
souls, where the tenement houses swelter and reek with the outcasts of Europe. Here, in a
broad thoroughfare, once the abode of wealthy City merchants, we found the  sculpture works for which we
searched. Outside was a considerable yard full of monumental masonry. Inside was a large
room in which fifty workers were carving or moulding. The manager, a big blond German,
received us civilly and gave a clear answer to all Holmess questions. A reference to
his books showed that hundreds of casts had been taken from a marble copy of Devines
head of Napoleon, but that the three which had been sent to Morse Hudson a year or so
before had been half of a batch of six, the other three being sent to Harding Brothers, of
Kensington. There was no reason why those six should be different from any of the other
casts. He could suggest no possible cause why anyone should wish to destroy themin
fact, he laughed at the idea. Their wholesale price was six shillings, but the retailer
would get twelve or more. The cast was taken in two moulds from each side of the face, and
then these two profiles of plaster of Paris were joined together to make the complete
bust. The work was usually done by Italians, in the room we were in. When finished, the
busts were put on a table in the passage to dry, and afterwards stored. That was all he
could tell us.
But the production of the photograph had a remarkable effect
upon the manager. His face flushed with anger, and his brows knotted over his blue
Ah, the rascal! he cried. Yes, indeed, I
know him very well. This has always been a respectable establishment, and the only time
that we have ever had the police in it was over this very fellow. It was more than a year
ago now. He knifed another Italian in the street, and then he came to the works with the
police on his heels, and he was taken here. Beppo was his namehis second name I
never knew. Serve me right for engaging a man with such a face. But he was a good
workmanone of the best.
What did he get?
The man lived and he got off with a year. I have no
doubt he is out now, but he has not dared to show his nose here. We have a cousin of his
here, and I daresay he could tell you where he is.
No, no, cried Holmes, not a word to the
cousinnot a word, I beg of you. The matter is very important, and the farther I go
with it, the more important it seems to grow. When you referred in your ledger to the sale
of those casts I observed that the date was June 3rd of last year. Could you give me the
date when Beppo was arrested?
I could tell you roughly by the pay-list, the
manager answered. Yes, he continued, after some turning over of pages,
he was paid last on May 20th.
Thank you, said Holmes. I dont think
that I need intrude upon your time and patience any more. With a last word of
caution that he should say nothing as to our researches, we turned our faces westward once
The afternoon was far advanced before we were able to snatch a
hasty luncheon at a restaurant. A news-bill at the entrance announced Kensington
Outrage. Murder by a Madman, and the contents of the paper showed that Mr. Horace
Harker had got his account into print after all. Two columns were occupied with a highly
sensational and flowery rendering of the whole incident. Holmes propped it against the
cruet-stand and read it while he ate. Once or twice he chuckled.
This is all right, Watson, said he. Listen
- It is satisfactory to know that there can be no
difference of opinion upon this case, since Mr. Lestrade, one of the most experienced
members of the official force, and Mr. Sherlock Holmes, the well-known consulting expert,  have each come to the
conclusion that the grotesque series of incidents, which have ended in so tragic a
fashion, arise from lunacy rather than from deliberate crime. No explanation save mental
aberration can cover the facts.
The Press, Watson, is a most valuable institution, if you only know how to use it. And
now, if you have quite finished, we will hark back to Kensington and see what the manager
of Harding Brothers has to say on the matter.
The founder of that great emporium proved to be a brisk, crisp
little person, very dapper and quick, with a clear head and a ready tongue.
Yes, sir, I have already read the account in the evening
papers. Mr. Horace Harker is a customer of ours. We supplied him with the bust some months
ago. We ordered three busts of that sort from Gelder & Co., of Stepney. They are all
sold now. To whom? Oh, I daresay by consulting our sales book we could very easily tell
you. Yes, we have the entries here. One to Mr. Harker you see, and one to Mr. Josiah
Brown, of Laburnum Lodge, Laburnum Vale, Chiswick, and one to Mr. Sandeford, of Lower
Grove Road, Reading. No, I have never seen this face which you show me in the photograph.
You would hardly forget it, would you, sir, for Ive seldom seen an uglier. Have we
any Italians on the staff? Yes, sir, we have several among our workpeople and cleaners. I
daresay they might get a peep at that sales book if they wanted to. There is no particular
reason for keeping a watch upon that book. Well, well, its a very strange business,
and I hope that you will let me know if anything comes of your inquiries.
Holmes had taken several notes during Mr. Hardings
evidence, and I could see that he was thoroughly satisfied by the turn which affairs were
taking. He made no remark, however, save that, unless we hurried, we should be late for
our appointment with Lestrade. Sure enough, when we reached Baker Street the detective was
already there, and we found him pacing up and down in a fever of impatience. His look of
importance showed that his days work had not been in vain.
Well? he asked. What luck, Mr. Holmes?
We have had a very busy day, and not entirely a wasted
one, my friend explained. We have seen both the retailers and also the
wholesale manufacturers. I can trace each of the busts now from the beginning.
The busts! cried Lestrade. Well, well, you
have your own methods, Mr. Sherlock Holmes, and it is not for me to say a word against
them, but I think I have done a better days work than you. I have identified the
You dont say so?
And found a cause for the crime.
We have an inspector who makes a specialty of Saffron
Hill and the Italian Quarter. Well, this dead man had some Catholic emblem round his neck,
and that, along with his colour, made me think he was from the South. Inspector Hill knew
him the moment he caught sight of him. His name is Pietro Venucci, from Naples, and he is
one of the greatest cut-throats in London. He is connected with the Mafia, which, as you
know, is a secret political society, enforcing its decrees by murder. Now, you see how the
affair begins to clear up. The other fellow is probably an Italian also, and a member of
the Mafia. He has broken the rules in some fashion. Pietro is set upon his track. Probably
the photograph we found in his pocket is the man himself, so that he may not knife the
wrong person. He  dogs
the fellow, he sees him enter a house, he waits outside for him, and in the scuffle he
receives his own death-wound. How is that, Mr. Sherlock Holmes?
Holmes clapped his hands approvingly.
Excellent, Lestrade, excellent! he cried.
But I didnt quite follow your explanation of the destruction of the
The busts! You never can get those busts out of your
head. After all, that is nothing; petty larceny, six months at the most. It is the murder
that we are really investigating, and I tell you that I am gathering all the threads into
And the next stage?
Is a very simple one. I shall go down with Hill to the
Italian Quarter, find the man whose photograph we have got, and arrest him on the charge
of murder. Will you come with us?
I think not. I fancy we can attain our end in a simpler
way. I cant say for certain, because it all dependswell, it all depends upon a
factor which is completely outside our control. But I have great hopesin fact, the
betting is exactly two to onethat if you will come with us to-night I shall be able
to help you to lay him by the heels.
In the Italian Quarter?
No, I fancy Chiswick is an address which is more likely
to find him. If you will come with me to Chiswick to-night, Lestrade, Ill promise to
go to the Italian Quarter with you to-morrow, and no harm will be done by the delay. And
now I think that a few hours sleep would do us all good, for I do not propose to
leave before eleven oclock, and it is unlikely that we shall be back before morning.
Youll dine with us, Lestrade, and then you are welcome to the sofa until it is time
for us to start. In the meantime, Watson, I should be glad if you would ring for an
express messenger, for I have a letter to send and it is important that it should go at
Holmes spent the evening in rummaging among the files of the
old daily papers with which one of our lumber-rooms was packed. When at last he descended,
it was with triumph in his eyes, but he said nothing to either of us as to the result of
his researches. For my own part, I had followed step by step the methods by which he had
traced the various windings of this complex case, and, though I could not yet perceive the
goal which we would reach, I understood clearly that Holmes expected this grotesque
criminal to make an attempt upon the two remaining busts, one of which, I remembered, was
at Chiswick. No doubt the object of our journey was to catch him in the very act, and I
could not but admire the cunning with which my friend had inserted a wrong clue in the
evening paper, so as to give the fellow the idea that he could continue his scheme with
impunity. I was not surprised when Holmes suggested that I should take my revolver with
me. He had himself picked up the loaded hunting-crop, which was his favourite weapon.
A four-wheeler was at the door at eleven, and in it we drove
to a spot at the other side of Hammersmith Bridge. Here the cabman was directed to wait. A
short walk brought us to a secluded road fringed with pleasant houses, each standing in
its own grounds. In the light of a street lamp we read Laburnum Villa upon the
gate-post of one of them. The occupants had evidently retired to rest, for all was dark
save for a fanlight over the hall door, which shed a single blurred circle on to the
garden path. The wooden fence which separated the grounds from the road threw a dense
black shadow upon the inner side, and here it was that we crouched.
fear that youll have a long wait, Holmes whispered. We may thank our
stars that it is not raining. I dont think we can even venture to smoke to pass the
time. However, its a two to one chance that we get something to pay us for our
It proved, however, that our vigil was not to be so long as
Holmes had led us to fear, and it ended in a very sudden and singular fashion. In an
instant, without the least sound to warn us of his coming, the garden gate swung open, and
a lithe, dark figure, as swift and active as an ape, rushed up the garden path. We saw it
whisk past the light thrown from over the door and disappear against the black shadow of
the house. There was a long pause, during which we held our breath, and then a very gentle
creaking sound came to our ears. The window was being opened. The noise ceased, and again
there was a long silence. The fellow was making his way into the house. We saw the sudden
flash of a dark lantern inside the room. What he sought was evidently not there, for again
we saw the flash through another blind, and then through another.
Let us get to the open window. We will nab him as he
climbs out, Lestrade whispered.
But before we could move, the man had emerged again. As he
came out into the glimmering patch of light, we saw that he carried something white under
his arm. He looked stealthily all round him. The silence of the deserted street reassured
him. Turning his back upon us he laid down his burden, and the next instant there was the
sound of a sharp tap, followed by a clatter and rattle. The man was so intent upon what he
was doing that he never heard our steps as we stole across the grass plot. With the bound
of a tiger Holmes was on his back, and an instant later Lestrade and I had him by either
wrist, and the handcuffs had been fastened. As we turned him over I saw a hideous, sallow
face, with writhing, furious features, glaring up at us, and I knew that it was indeed the
man of the photograph whom we had secured.
But it was not our prisoner to whom Holmes was giving his
attention. Squatted on the doorstep, he was engaged in most carefully examining that which
the man had brought from the house. It was a bust of Napoleon, like the one which we had
seen that morning, and it had been broken into similar fragments. Carefully Holmes held
each separate shard to the light, but in no way did it differ from any other shattered
piece of plaster. He had just completed his examination when the hall lights flew up, the
door opened, and the owner of the house, a jovial, rotund figure in shirt and trousers,
Mr. Josiah Brown, I suppose? said Holmes.
Yes, sir; and you, no doubt, are Mr. Sherlock Holmes? I
had the note which you sent by the express messenger, and I did exactly what you told me.
We locked every door on the inside and awaited developments. Well, Im very glad to
see that you have got the rascal. I hope, gentlemen, that you will come in and have some
However, Lestrade was anxious to get his man into safe
quarters, so within a few minutes our cab had been summoned and we were all four upon our
way to London. Not a word would our captive say, but he glared at us from the shadow of
his matted hair, and once, when my hand seemed within his reach, he snapped at it like a
hungry wolf. We stayed long enough at the police-station to learn that a search of his
clothing revealed nothing save a few shillings and a long sheath knife, the handle of
which bore copious traces of recent blood.
all right, said Lestrade, as we parted. Hill knows all these gentry, and he
will give a name to him. Youll find that my theory of the Mafia will work out all
right. But Im sure I am exceedingly obliged to you, Mr. Holmes, for the workmanlike
way in which you laid hands upon him. I dont quite understand it all yet.
I fear it is rather too late an hour for
explanations, said Holmes. Besides, there are one or two details which are not
finished off, and it is one of those cases which are worth working out to the very end. If
you will come round once more to my rooms at six oclock to-morrow, I think I shall
be able to show you that even now you have not grasped the entire meaning of this
business, which presents some features which make it absolutely original in the history of
crime. If ever I permit you to chronicle any more of my little problems, Watson, I foresee
that you will enliven your pages by an account of the singular adventure of the Napoleonic
When we met again next evening, Lestrade was furnished with
much information concerning our prisoner. His name, it appeared, was Beppo, second name
unknown. He was a well-known neer-do-well among the Italian colony. He had once been
a skilful sculptor and had earned an honest living, but he had taken to evil courses and
had twice already been in jailonce for a petty theft, and once, as we had already
heard, for stabbing a fellow-countryman. He could talk English perfectly well. His reasons
for destroying the busts were still unknown, and he refused to answer any questions upon
the subject, but the police had discovered that these same busts might very well have been
made by his own hands, since he was engaged in this class of work at the establishment of
Gelder & Co. To all this information, much of which we already knew, Holmes listened
with polite attention, but I, who knew him so well, could clearly see that his thoughts
were elsewhere, and I detected a mixture of mingled uneasiness and expectation beneath
that mask which he was wont to assume. At last he started in his chair, and his eyes
brightened. There had been a ring at the bell. A minute later we heard steps upon the
stairs, and an elderly red-faced man with grizzled side-whiskers was ushered in. In his
right hand he carried an old-fashioned carpet-bag, which he placed upon the table.
Is Mr. Sherlock Holmes here?
My friend bowed and smiled. Mr. Sandeford, of Reading, I
suppose? said he.
Yes, sir, I fear that I am a little late, but the trains
were awkward. You wrote to me about a bust that is in my possession.
I have your letter here. You said, I desire to
possess a copy of Devines Napoleon, and am prepared to pay you ten pounds for the
one which is in your possession. Is that right?
I was very much surprised at your letter, for I could
not imagine how you knew that I owned such a thing.
Of course you must have been surprised, but the
explanation is very simple. Mr. Harding, of Harding Brothers, said that they had sold you
their last copy, and he gave me your address.
Oh, that was it, was it? Did he tell you what I paid for
No, he did not.
Well, I am an honest man, though not a very rich one. I
only gave fifteen  shillings
for the bust, and I think you ought to know that before I take ten pounds from you.
I am sure the scruple does you honour, Mr. Sandeford.
But I have named that price, so I intend to stick to it.
Well, it is very handsome of you, Mr. Holmes. I brought
the bust up with me, as you asked me to do. Here it is! He opened his bag, and at
last we saw placed upon our table a complete specimen of that bust which we had already
seen more than once in fragments.
Holmes took a paper from his pocket and laid a ten-pound
note upon the table.
You will kindly sign that paper, Mr. Sandeford, in the
presence of these witnesses. It is simply to say that you transfer every possible right
that you ever had in the bust to me. I am a methodical man, you see, and you never know
what turn events might take afterwards. Thank you, Mr. Sandeford; here is your money, and
I wish you a very good evening.
When our visitor had disappeared, Sherlock Holmess
movements were such as to rivet our attention. He began by taking a clean white cloth from
a drawer and laying it over the table. Then he placed his newly acquired bust in the
centre of the cloth. Finally, he picked up his hunting-crop and struck Napoleon a sharp
blow on the top of the head. The figure broke into fragments, and Holmes bent eagerly over
the shattered remains. Next instant, with a loud shout of triumph he held up one splinter,
in which a round, dark object was fixed like a plum in a pudding.
Gentlemen, he cried, let me introduce you
to the famous black pearl of the Borgias.
Lestrade and I sat silent for a moment, and then, with a
spontaneous impulse, we both broke out clapping, as at the well-wrought crisis of a play.
A flush of colour sprang to Holmess pale cheeks, and he bowed to us like the master
dramatist who receives the homage of his audience. It was at such moments that for an
instant he ceased to be a reasoning machine, and betrayed his human love for admiration
and applause. The same singularly proud and reserved nature which turned away with disdain
from popular notoriety was capable of being moved to its depths by spontaneous wonder and
praise from a friend.
Yes, gentlemen, said he, it is the most
famous pearl now existing in the world, and it has been my good fortune, by a connected
chain of inductive reasoning, to trace it from the Prince of Colonnas bedroom at the
Dacre Hotel, where it was lost, to the interior of this, the last of the six busts of
Napoleon which were manufactured by Gelder & Co., of Stepney. You will remember,
Lestrade, the sensation caused by the disappearance of this valuable jewel, and the vain
efforts of the London police to recover it. I was myself consulted upon the case, but I
was unable to throw any light upon it. Suspicion fell upon the maid of the Princess, who
was an Italian, and it was proved that she had a brother in London, but we failed to trace
any connection between them. The maids name was Lucretia Venucci, and there is no
doubt in my mind that this Pietro who was murdered two nights ago was the brother. I have
been looking up the dates in the old files of the paper, and I find that the disappearance
of the pearl was exactly two days before the arrest of Beppo, for some crime of
violencean event which took place in the factory of Gelder & Co., at the very
moment when these busts were being made. Now you clearly see the sequence of events,
though you see them, of course, in the inverse order to the way in which they presented
themselves to me. Beppo had the pearl in his possession. He may have stolen it from
Pietro, he may have  been
Pietros confederate, he may have been the go-between of Pietro and his sister. It is
of no consequence to us which is the correct solution.
The main fact is that he had the pearl, and at
that moment, when it was on his person, he was pursued by the police. He made for the
factory in which he worked, and he knew that he had only a few minutes in which to conceal
this enormously valuable prize, which would otherwise be found on him when he was
searched. Six plaster casts of Napoleon were drying in the passage. One of them was still
soft. In an instant Beppo, a skilful workman, made a small hole in the wet plaster,
dropped in the pearl, and with a few touches covered over the aperture once more. It was
an admirable hiding-place. No one could possibly find it. But Beppo was condemned to a
years imprisonment, and in the meanwhile his six busts were scattered over London.
He could not tell which contained his treasure. Only by breaking them could he see. Even
shaking would tell him nothing, for as the plaster was wet it was probable that the pearl
would adhere to itas, in fact, it has done. Beppo did not despair, and he conducted
his search with considerable ingenuity and perseverance. Through a cousin who works with
Gelder, he found out the retail firms who had bought the busts. He managed to find
employment with Morse Hudson, and in that way tracked down three of them. The pearl was
not there. Then, with the help of some Italian employe, he succeeded in finding out where
the other three busts had gone. The first was at Harkers. There he was dogged by his
confederate, who held Beppo responsible for the loss of the pearl, and he stabbed him in
the scuffle which followed.
If he was his confederate, why should he carry his
photograph? I asked.
As a means of tracing him, if he wished to inquire about
him from any third person. That was the obvious reason. Well, after the murder I
calculated that Beppo would probably hurry rather than delay his movements. He would fear
that the police would read his secret, and so he hastened on before they should get ahead
of him. Of course, I could not say that he had not found the pearl in Harkers bust.
I had not even concluded for certain that it was the pearl, but it was evident to me that
he was looking for something, since he carried the bust past the other houses in order to
break it in the garden which had a lamp overlooking it. Since Harkers bust was one
in three, the chances were exactly as I told youtwo to one against the pearl being
inside it. There remained two busts, and it was obvious that he would go for the London
one first. I warned the inmates of the house, so as to avoid a second tragedy, and we went
down, with the happiest results. By that time, of course, I knew for certain that it was
the Borgia pearl that we were after. The name of the murdered man linked the one event
with the other. There only remained a single bustthe Reading oneand the pearl
must be there. I bought it in your presence from the ownerand there it lies.
We sat in silence for a moment.
Well, said Lestrade, Ive seen you
handle a good many cases, Mr. Holmes, but I dont know that I ever knew a more
workmanlike one than that. Were not jealous of you at Scotland Yard. No, sir, we are
very proud of you, and if you come down to-morrow, theres not a man, from the oldest
inspector to the youngest constable, who wouldnt be glad to shake you by the
Thank you! said Holmes. Thank you! and
as he turned away, it seemed to me that he was more nearly moved by the softer human
emotions than I had ever seen him. A moment later he was the cold and practical thinker
once more. Put the pearl in the safe, Watson, said he, and get out the
papers of the  Conk-Singleton
forgery case. Good-bye, Lestrade. If any little problem comes your way, I shall be happy,
if I can, to give you a hint or two as to its solution.