The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes: 2 The Red-Headed League

the red-headed league by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle I had called upon my friend mr. Sherlock Holmes one day in the autumn of last year and found him in deep conversation with a very stout florid-faced elderly gentleman with fiery red hair with an apology for my intrusion I was about to withdraw when Holmes pulled me abruptly into the room and closed the door behind me you could not possibly have come at a better time my dear Watson he said cordially I was afraid that you were engaged so I am very much so then I can wait in the next room not at all this gentleman mr. Wilson has been my partner and helper in many of my most successful cases and I have no doubt that he will be of the utmost use to me in yours also the stout gentleman half rose from his chair and gave a bob of greeting with a quick little questioning glance from his small fat encircled eyes try the seti said holmes relapsing into his armchair and pulling his fingertips together as was his custom when in judicial moods I know my dear Watson that you share my love of all that is bizarre and outside the conventions and humdrum routine of everyday life you have shown your relish for it by the enthusiasm which has promoted you to Chronicle and if you will excuse my saying so somewhat to embellish so many of my own little adventures your cases have indeed been of the greatest interest to me I observed you will remember that I remarked the other day just before we went into the very simple problem presented by Miss Mary Sutherland that for strange effects and extraordinary combinations we must go to life itself which is always far more daring than any effort of the imagination a proposition which I took the liberty of doubting you did doctor but nonetheless you must come round to my view for otherwise I shall keep piling fact upon fact on you until your reason breaks down under them and acknowledges me to be right now mr Jabez Wilson here has been good enough to call upon me this morning and to begin a narrative which promises to be one of the most singular which I have listened to for some time you have heard me remark that the strangest and most unique things are very often connected not only with the larger but with the smaller crimes and occasionally indeed where there is room for doubt whether any positive crime has been committed as far as I have heard it is impossible for me to say whether the present case is an instance of crime or not but the course of events is certainly among the most singular that I have ever listened to perhaps mr. Wilson you would have great kindness to recommence your narrative I ask you not merely because my friend dr. Watson has not heard the opening part but also because the peculiar nature of the story makes me anxious to have every possible detail from your lips as a rule when I have heard some slight indication of the course of events I am able to guide myself by the thousands of other similar cases which occur to my memory in the present instance I am forced to admit that the facts are to the best of my belief unique the portly client puffed out his chest with an appearance of some little pride and pulled a dirty and wrinkled newspaper from the inside pocket of his greatcoat as he glanced down the advertisement column with his head thrust forward and the paper flattened out upon his knee I took a good look at the man and endeavoured after the fashion of my companion to read the indications which might be presented by his dress or appearance I did not gain very much however by my inspection our visitor bore every mark of being an average commonplace British tradesman obese pompous and slow he wore rather baggy grey shepherd’s check trousers a not over-clean black frock-coat unbuttoned in the front and a drab waistcoat with a heavy brassy albert chain and a square pierced bit of metal dangling down as an ornament a frayed top-hat and a faded brown overcoat with a wrinkled velvet collar lay upon a chair beside him altogether look as I would was nothing remarkable about the man save his blazing red head and the expression of extreme shag grin and discontent upon his features Sherlock Holmes’s quick I took in my occupation and he shook his head with a smile as he noticed by questioning glances beyond the obvious facts that he has at some time done manual labor that he takes snuff that he is a freemason that he has been in China and that he has done a considerable amount of writing lately I

can deduce nothing else mr. Jabez Wilson started up in his chair with his forefinger upon the paper but his eyes upon my companion how in the name of good-fortune did you know all that mr Holmes he asked how did you know for example that I did manual labor this is true as gospel and I began as a ship’s carpenter your hands my dear sir your right hand is quite a size larger than your left you have worked with it and the muscles are more developed well the snuff then and the Freemasonry I won’t insult your intelligence by telling you how I read that especially ours rather against the strict rules of your order you use an arc and compass breast-pin ah of course I forgot that but the writing what else can be indicated by that right cuff so very shiny for five inches and the left one with the smooth patch near the elbow where you rest it upon the desk well but China the fish which you have tattooed immediately above your right wrist could only have been done in China I have made a small study up to two marks and have even contributed to the literature of the subject that trick of staining the fishes scales of a delicate pink it is quite peculiar to China when in addition I see a Chinese coin hanging from your watch-chain the matter becomes even more simple mr Jabez Wilson laughed heavily well I never said he are thought at first you’d done something clever but I say that there was nothing in it after all I begin to think Watson said Holmes the I make a mistake in explaining omne ignotum Pro Magnifico you know and my poor little reputation such as it is will suffer shipwreck if I am so candid can you not find the advertisement mr Wilson yes I have got it now he answered with his thick red finger planted halfway down the column here it is this is what began it all you just read it for yourself sir I took the paper from him and read as follows to the red-headed league on account of the bequest of the late Hezekiah Hopkins of Lebanon Penh USA there is now another vacancy open which entitles a member of the league to a salary of four pounds a week for purely nominal services all redheaded men who are sound in body and mind and about the age of 21 years are eligible apply in person on Monday at 11 o’clock to Duncan Ross at the offices of the league 7 Pope’s court Fleet Street what on earth does this mean I ejaculated after I had twice read over the extraordinary announcement Holmes chuckled and wriggled in his chair as was his habit when in high spirits it is a little off the beaten track isn’t it said he and now mr. Wilson off you go at scratch and tell us all about yourself your household and the effect which this advertisement had upon your fortunes you will first make a note doctor of the paper and the date it is the morning chronicle of April the 27th 1890 just two months ago very good now mr. Wilson well it is just as I’ve been telling you mr. Sherlock Holmes said Jabez Wilson mopping his foreign I have a small pawnbrokers business at Coburg square near the city it’s not a very large affair and of late years it has not done more than just give me a living I used to be able to keep two assistants but now I only keep one and I would have a job to pay him but that he is willing to come for half wages so as to learn the business what is the name of this obliging youth asked Sherlock Holmes his name is Vincent holding and he’s not such a youth either it’s hard to say his age I should not wish a smarter assistant mr. Holmes and our know very well that he could better himself and earn twice what I’m able to give him but after all if he’s satisfied why should I put ideas in he said why indeed you seem most fortunate in having an Mya who comes under the full market price it is not a common experience among employers in this age I don’t know that your assistant is not as remarkable as your advertisement oh he has his faults too said mr. Wilson never was such a fellow for photography snapping away with a camera when he ought to be improving his mind and then diving down into the cellar like a rabbit into his hole to develop his pictures that’s his main fault but on the whole he’s a good worker there’s no vice in him he is still with you I presume yes sir he and a girl of 14 who does a bit of simple cooking keeps the place clean that’s all I have in the house for I’m a widower and never had any family we live very quietly sir the three of us and we keep

a roof over our heads and pay our debts if we do nothing more the first thing that put us out was that advertisement Spaulding he came down into the office just this day eight weeks with this very paper in his hand and he says I wish to the Lord mr. Wilson died was a redheaded man why that I asks why says he here’s another vacancy on the League of the redheaded men it’s worth quite a little fortune to any man who gets it and I understand that there are more vacancies than there are men so that the trustees her at their wit’s end what to do with the money if my hair would only change color here’s a nice little crib all ready for me to step into why what is it then I asked you see mr. Holmes I am a very stay-at-home man and as my business came to me instead of my having to go to it I was often weeks on end without putting my foot over the doormat in that way I didn’t know much of what was going on outside and I was always glad of a bit of news have you never heard of the League of the redheaded men he asked with his eyes open never why I wonder at that for you are eligible yourself for one of the vacancies and what are they worth I asked Oh merely a couple of hundred a year but the work is slight and it need not interfere much with one’s other occupations well you can easily think that that made me prick up my ears for the business has not been over good for some years and an extra couple of hundred would have been very auntie tell me all about it said I well said e showing me the advertisement you can see for yourself that the league has a vacancy and there is the address where you should apply for particulars as far as I can make out the league was founded by an American millionaire ezekiah Hopkins who was very peculiar in his ways he was himself redheaded and he had a great sympathy for all redheaded men so when he died it was found that he had left his enormous fortune in the ends of trustees with instructions to apply the interest to providing of easy berths to men whose areas of that color from all I hear it is splendid pay and very little to do but said I there would be millions of redheaded men who would apply not so many as you might think he answered you see it is really confined to Londoners and to grown men this American that started from London when he was young and he wanted to do the old town a good turn then again I have heard it is no use your applying if your hair is light red or or dark red or anything but real bright blazing fiery red now if you care to apply mr. Wilson you would just walk in but perhaps it would hardly be worth your while to put yourself out of the way for the sake of a few hundred pounds now it is a fact gentlemen as you may see for yourselves that my hair is of a very full and rich tint so that it seemed to me that if there was to be any competition in the matter I stood as good a chance as any man that I have ever met Vincent Spaulding seemed to know so much about it that I thought he might prove useful so I just ordered him to put up the shutters for the day and to come right away with me he was very willing to ever holiday so we shut the business up and started off for the address that was given us in the advertisement I never hoped to see such a sight to say again mr. Holmes from north south east and west every man who had a shade of red in his hair a tramped into the city to answer the advertisement Fleet Street was choked with redheaded folk and Pope’s court looked like a coster’s orange Barrow I should not have thought there were so many in the whole country as were brought together by that single advertisement every shade of color they were straw lemon orange brick Irish Setter liver clay bar Spalding said there were not many who had the real vivid flame-coloured tin when I saw how many were waiting I would have given up in despair but Spaulding he would not hear of it how he did it I could not imagine but he pushed and pulled and butted until he got me through the crowd and right up to the steps which led to the office there was a double stream upon the stair some going up in hope and some coming back dejected but we wedged in as well as we could and soon found ourselves in the office your experience has been a most entertaining one remarked Holmes as his client paused and refreshed his memory with a huge pinch of snuff pray continue your interesting statement there was nothing in the office but a couple of wooden chairs and a deal table behind which sat a man with a head that was even redder than mine he said a few words to each candidate as he came up and then he always managed to find some Fault in them which would

disqualify them getting a vacancy did not seem to be a very easy matter after all however when our turn came the little man was more favourable to me than to any of the others and he closed the door as we entered so that he might have a private word with us this is mr. Jabez Wilson said my assistant and he is willing to fill a vacancy in the league and he is admirably suited for it the other answered he has every requirement I cannot recall when I’ve seen anything so fine he took a step backwards cocked his head on one side and gazed at my hair until I felt quite bashful then suddenly plunged forward wrung my hand and congratulated me on my success it would be injustice to hesitate City you will however I am sure excuse me for taking an obvious precaution with that he seized my hair in both his hands and tugged until I healed with pain there is water in your eyes said he as he released me I perceived that all is as it should be but we have to be careful for we have twice been deceived by weeks and once by paint I could tell you tales of cobblers wax which would disgust you with human nature he stepped over to the window and shouted through it at the top of his voice that the vacancy was filled a groan of disappointment came up from below and the folk all trooped away in different directions until there was not all ready to be seen except my own and that of the manager no name said he is mr. Duncan Ross and I am myself one of the pensioners upon that fund left by our noble benefactor are you a married man mr. Wilson have you any family I aren’t said that I had not his face fell immediately dear me he said gravely that is very serious indeed I’m sorry to hear you say that the fund was of course for the propagation and spread of the redheads as well as for their maintenance it is exceedingly unfortunate that you should be a bachelor my face lengthened at this mr Holmes for I thought that I was not to have the vacancy after all but after thinking it over for a few minutes he said that it would be alright in the case of another City the objection might be fatal but we must stretch a point in favor of a man with such a head of hair as yours when sure you be able to enter upon your new duties well it is a little awkward for I have a business already said I oh never mind about that mr Wilson said vincent spaulding I shall be able to look after that for you what would be the hours I asked 10:00 to 2:00 now all brokers business is mostly done of an evening mr. ohms especially firstly on Friday evening which is just before payday so it would suit me very well to earn a little in the mornings besides I knew that my system was a good man and that he would see to anything that turned up that would suit me very well said I and the pay is for pound a week and the work is purely nominal what do you call purely nominal well you have to be in the office or at least in the building the old time if you leave you forfeit your whole position forever the will is very clear upon that point you don’t comply with the conditions if you budge from the office during that time it’s only four hours a day and I should not think of leaving said I now excuse will avail said mr. duncan ross neither sickness nor business nor anything else there you must stay or you lose your billet and the work is to copy out the Encyclopaedia Britannica there is the first volume of it in that press you must find your own ink pens and blotting-paper but we provide this table and chair will you be ready tomorrow certainly I answered then goodbye mr Jabez Wilson and let me congratulate you once more on the important position which you’ve been fortunate enough to gain he bowed me out of the room and I went home with my assistant hardly knowing what to say or do I was so pleased at my own good fortune well I thought over the matter all day and by evening I was in low spirits again for I had quite persuaded myself that the whole affair must be some great hoax or fraud though what it’s object might be I could not imagine it seemed altogether past belief that anyone could make such a will although they would pay such a sum for doing anything so simple as copying out the Encyclopedia Britannica Vincent Spaulding did what he could to cheer me up but by bedtime I’d reasoned myself out of the whole thing however in the morning I determined to have a look at it anyhow so I bought a penny bottle

of ink and with a quill pen and seven sheets of foolscap pay I started off for Pope’s court well to my surprise and delight everything was as right as possible the table was set out ready for me and mr. Duncan Ross was there to see that I got fairly to work he started me off upon the letter I and then he left me but he would drop in from time to time to see that all was right with me at two o’clock he bade me good-day complimented me upon the amount that I had written and locked the door the office after me this went on day after day mr. Holmes and on Saturday the manager came in and planked down four golden sovereigns for my week’s work it was the same next week and the same the week after every morning I was there at ten and every afternoon I left it to by degrees mr. Duncan Ross took to coming in only once of a morning and then after a time he did not come in at all still of course I never dared to leave the room for an instant for I was not sure when he might come and the billet was such a good one and suited me so well that I would not risk the loss of it eight weeks passed away like this and I had written about Abbot’s and archery and armour and architecture and Attica and hoped with diligence that I might get on the beast before very long it cost me something in foolscap and I had pretty nearly filled a shelf with my writings and then suddenly the whole business came to an end to an end yes sir and no later than this morning I went to my work as usual at ten o’clock but the door was shut and locked with a little square of cardboard hammered on to the middle of the panel with attack here it is and you can read for yourself he held up a piece of white cardboard about the size of a sheet of notepaper it read in this fashion the red-headed league is dissolved October the 9th 1890 Sherlock Holmes and I surveyed this Curt announcement and the rueful face behind it until the comical side of the affair so completely overtopped every other consideration that we both burst into a roar of laughter I cannot say that there is anything very funny cried our client flushing up to the roots of his flaming head if you can do nothing better than laugh at me I can go elsewhere no no cried Holmes shoving him back into the chair from which he had half risen I really wouldn’t miss your case for the world it is most refreshingly unusual but there is if you will excuse me saying so something just a little funny about it pray what steps did you take when you found a card upon the door I was staggered sir I did not know what to do then I called at the offices round but none of them seemed to know anything about it finally I went to the landlord who is an accountant living on the ground-floor and I asked him if he could tell me what had become of the red-headed league he said that he had never heard of any such body then I asked him who mr. Duncan Ross was he answered that the name was new to him well said either gentleman at number four what the redheaded man yes Oh City his name was William Morris he was a solicitor and was using my room as a temporary convenience until his new premises were ready he moved out yesterday where could I find him I would his new offices he did tell me the address yes seventeen King Edward Street near sand Paul’s I started off mr. Holmes but when I got to that address it was a manufactory of artificial kneecaps and now one in E had ever heard of either mr. William Morris or mr. Duncan Ross and what did you do then asked Holmes I went home to saxe-coburg square and I took the advice of my assistant but he could not help me in any way he could only say that if I waited I should here by post but that was not quite good enough mr. Holmes I did not wish to lose such a place without a struggle so as I had heard that you were good enough to give advice to poor folk who were in need of it I came right away to you and you did very wisely said Holmes your case is an exceedingly remarkable one and I shall be happy to look into it from what you have told me I think that it is possible that graver issues hang from it than might at first sight appear grave enough said Mr Jabez Wilson why I have lost four a week as far as you are personally concerned remarked Holmes I do not see that you have any grievance against this extraordinary league on the contrary you are as I understand Richard by some 30 pounds to say nothing of the minut knowledge which you have gained on every subject which comes under letter a you have lost nothing by them no sir / I want to find out about them and who they are and what their object was in playing this prank if it was a prank upon me it was a pretty expensive joke for them for

it cost them two and thirty pounds we shall endeavour to clear up these points for you and first one or two questions mr. Wilson this assistant of yours who first called your attention to the advertisement how long had he been with you about a month in how did he come in answer to an advertisement was he the only applicant no I had a dozen why did you pick him because he was Andy and would come cheap at half wages in fact yes what is he like this Vincent Spaulding small stout built very quick in his ways no hair on his face though he’s not short of 30 as a white splash of acid upon his forehead Holmes sat up in his chair in considerable excitement I thought as much said he have you ever observed that his ears are pierced for earrings yes sir he told me that a gypsy had done it for him when he was a lad hum said Holmes sinking back in deep thought he is still with you oh yes sir I’ve only just left him and has your business been attended to in your absence nothing to complain of sir there’s never very much to do over money that will do mr. Wilson I shall be happy to give an opinion upon the subject in the course of a day or two today is Saturday and I hope that by Monday we may come to a conclusion well Watson said Holmes when our visitor had left us what do you make of it all I make nothing of it I answered frankly it is a most mysterious business as a rule said Holmes the more bizarre a thing is the less mysterious it proves to be it is your commonplace featureless crimes which are really puzzling just as a commonplace face is the most difficult to identify but I must be prompt over this matter what are you going to do then I asked to smoke he answered it is quite a three pipe problem and I beg that you won’t speak to me for fifty minutes he curled himself up in his chair with his thin knees drawn up to his hawk-like nose and there he sat with his eyes closed and his black clay pipe thrusting out like the bill of some strange bird I had come to the conclusion that he had dropped asleep and indeed was nodding myself when he suddenly sprang out of his chair with the gesture of a man who had made up his mind and put his pipe down upon the mantelpiece saraswathi plays at the Sun James Hall this afternoon he remarked what do you think Watson could your patients spare you for a few hours I have nothing to do today my practice is never very absorbing then put on your hat and come I’m going through the city first and we can have some lunch on the way I observed that there is a good deal of German music on the programme which is rather more to my taste than Italian or French it is introspective and I want to introspect come along we travelled by the underground as far as Aldersgate and a short walk took us to saxe-coburg Square the scene of the singular story which we had listened to in the morning it was a poky little shabby genteel place where four lines of dingy two-storied brick houses looked out into a small railed in enclosure where a lawn of weedy grass and a few clumps of faded laurel bushes made a hard fight against a smoke laden and uncongenial atmosphere three gilt balls and a brown board with jabez wilson in white letters upon a corner house announced the place where our redheaded client carried on his business Sherlock Holmes stopped in front of it with his head on one side and looked it all over with his eyes shining brightly between puckered lids then he walked slowly up the street and then down again to the corner still looking keenly at the houses finally he returned to the pawnbrokers and having thumped vigorously on the pavement with his stick to us three times he went up to the door and knocked it was instantly opened by a bright-looking clean-shaven young fellow who asked him to step in thank you said Holmes I only wish to ask you how you would go from here to the Strand third right fourth left answered the assistant promptly closing the door smart fellow that observed Holmes as we walked away he is in my judgment the fourth smartest man in London and for daring I am Not sure that he has not a claim to be third I have known something of him before evidently said I mr Wilson’s assistant counts for a good deal in this mystery of the red-headed league I am sure that you inquired your way merely in order that you might see him not him what then the knees of his trousers and what did you see what I expected to see why did you beat the pavement My dear doctor this is a time of observation not for talk we are spies in an enemy’s country we know something

of saxe-coburg square let us now explore the paths which lie behind it the road in which we found ourselves as we turned round the corner from the retired saxe-coburg square presented as great a contrast to it as the front of the picture does the back it was one of the main arteries which convey the traffic of the city to the north and west the roadway was blocked with the immense stream of Commerce flowing in a double tide inwards and outwards while the footpaths were black with the hurrying swarm of pedestrians it was difficult to realize as we looked at the line of fine shops and stately business premises that they really are butted on the other side upon the faded and stagnant square which we had just quitted let me see said Holmes standing at the corner and glancing along the line I should like just to remember the order of the houses here it is a hobby of mine to have exact knowledge of London there is Mortimer’s the tobacconist the little newspaper shop the Coburg branch of the city and Suburban bank the vegetarian restaurant and McFarlane’s carriage building depot that carries us right on to the other block and now doctor we’ve done our work so it’s time we had some play a sandwich and a cup of coffee and then off to violin land were all is sweetness and delicacy and harmony and there are no redheaded clients to vex us with their conundrums my friend was an enthusiastic musician being himself not only a very capable performer but a composer of no ordinary merit all the afternoon he sat in the stalls wrapped in the most perfect happiness gently waving his long thin fingers in time to the music while his gently smiling face and his languid dreamy eyes were as unlike those of holmes the sleuth-hound holmes the relentless keen-witted ready handed criminal agent as it was possible to conceive in his singular character the dual nature alternately asserted itself and his extreme exactness and astuteness represented as i have often thought the reaction against the poetic and contemplative mood which occasionally predominated in him the swing of his nature took him from extreme languor to devouring energy and as i knew well he was never so truly formidable as when for days on end he had been lounging in his armchair amid his improvisations and his black-letter editions then it was that the lust of the chase would suddenly come upon him and that his brilliant reasoning power would rise to the level of intuition until those who were unacquainted with his methods would look askance at him as on a man whose knowledge was not that of other mortals when I saw him that afternoon so enwrapped in the music at sand James’s Hall I felt that an evil time might be coming upon those whom he had set himself to hunt down you want to go home no doubt doctor he remarked as we emerged yes it would be as well and I have some business to do which will take some hours this business at Coburg square is serious why serious a considerable crime is in contemplation I have every reason to believe that we shall be in time to stop it but today being Saturday rather complicates matters I shall want your help tonight at what time ten will be early enough I shall be at Baker Street at 10:00 very well and I say doctor there may be some little danger so kindly put your Army revolver in your pocket he waved his hand turned on his heel and disappeared in an instant among the crowd I trust that I am NOT more dense than my neighbors but I was always oppressed with a sense of my own stupidity in my dealings with Sherlock Holmes here I had heard what he had heard I had seen what he had seen and yet from his words it was evident that he saw clearly not only what had happened but what was about to happen while to me the whole business was still confused and grotesque as I drove home to my house in Kensington I thought over it all from the extraordinary story of the redheaded copier of the Encyclopaedia down to the visit to saxe-coburg Square and the ominous words with which he had parted from me what was this nocturnal expedition and why should I go armed where were we going and what were we to do I had the hint from Holmes that this smooth-faced pawnbrokers assistant was a formidable man a man who might play a deep game I tried to puzzle it out but gave up in despair and set the matter aside until night should bring an explanation it was a quarter past nine

when I started from home and made my way across the park and so through Oxford Street to Baker Street to hansoms were standing at the door and as I entered the passage I heard the sound of voices from above on entering his room I found Holmes in animated conversation with two men one of whom I recognised as Peter Jones the official police agent while the other was a long thin sad-faced man with a very shiny hat and oppressively a respectable frock-coat ha our party is complete said Holmes buttoning up his pea-jacket and taking his heavy hunting crop from the watson i think you know mr. Jones of Scotland Yard let me introduce you to mr. Merryweather who is to be our companion in tonight’s adventure we’re hunting in couples again doctor you see said Jones in his consequential way our friend here is a wonderful man for starting a chase all he wants is an old dog to help him do the running down I hope a wild goose may not prove to be the end of our chase observed mr Merryweather gloomily you may place considerable confidence in mr. Holmes sir said the police agent loftily he has his own little methods which are if he won’t mind me saying so just a little too theoretical and fantastic but he has the makings of a detective in him it is not too much to say that once or twice as in that business of the Sholto murder and the Agra treasure he has been more nearly correct than the official force oh if you say so mr. Jones it is all right said the stranger with deference still I confess that I miss my rubber it is the first Saturday night for seven and twenty years that I have not had my rubber I think you will find said Sherlock Holmes that you will play for a higher stake tonight than you have ever done yet and that the play will be more exciting for you mr. Merryweather the stake will be some 30,000 pounds and for you Jones it will be the man upon whom you wish to lay your hands John Clay the murderer thief Smasher and forger he’s a young man mr. Merryweather but he is at the head of his profession and I would rather have my bracelets on him than on any criminal in London he is a remarkable man his young john clay his grandfather was a royal duke and he himself has been to Eton and Oxford his brain is as cunning as his fingers and though we meet signs of him at every turn we never know where to find the man himself he’ll crack a crib in Scotland one week and be raising money to build an orphanage in Cornwall the next I’ve been on his tracks for years and have never set eyes on him yet I hope that I may have the pleasure of introducing you tonight I’ve had one or two little turns also with mr. John clay and I agree with you that he is at the head of his profession it is past ten however and quite time we started if you two will take the first hansom Watson and I will follow in the second Sherlock Holmes was not very communicative during the long drive and lay back in the cab humming the tunes which we had heard in the afternoon we rattled through an endless labyrinth of gas-lit streets until we emerged into Farrington Street we are closed there now my friend remarked this fellow Merryweather is a bank director and personally interested in the matter I thought it as well to have Jones with us also he’s not a bad fellow though an absolute imbecile in his profession he has one positive virtue he is as brave as a bulldog and as tenacious as a lobster if he gets his claws upon anyone here we are and they are waiting for us we had reached the same crowded thoroughfare in which we had found ourselves in the morning our cabs were dismissed and following the guidance of mr. Merryweather we passed down a narrow passage and through a side door which he opened for us within there was a small corridor which ended in a very massive iron gate this also was opened and led down a flight of winding stone steps which terminated at another formidable gate mr. merryweather stopped a light a lantern and then conducted us down a dark earth smelling passage and so after opening a third door into a huge vault or cellar which was piled all round with crates and massive boxes you are not very vulnerable from above Holmes remarked as he held up the lantern and gazed about him nor from below said Mr Merryweather striking his stick upon the flags which lined the floor wide dear me it sounds quite hollow he remarked looking up in surprise I must really ask you to be a little more quiet said Holmes severely you have already imperiled the whole

success of our expedition might I beg that you would have the goodness to sit down upon one of those boxes and not to interfere here the solemn mr. Merryweather perched himself upon a crate with a very injured expression upon his face while Holmes fell upon his knees upon the floor and with the lantern and a magnifying glass began to examine my new clay the cracks between the stones a few seconds later sufficed to satisfy him for he sprang to his feet again and put his glass in his pocket we have at least an hour before us he remarked before they can hardly take any steps until the good pawnbroker is safely in bed then they will not lose a minute for the sooner they do their work the longer time they will have for their escape we are at present doctor as no doubt you have divined in the cellar of the city branch of one of the principal London banks mr. Merryweather is the chairman of Directors and he will explain to you that there are reasons why the more daring criminals of London should take a considerable interest in this cellar at present it is our French gold whispered the director we have had several warnings that an attempt might be made upon it your French gold yes we had occasion some months ago to strengthen our resources and borrowed for that purpose 30,000 Napoleons from the Bank of France it has become known that we have never had occasion to unpack the money and that it is still lying in our cellar the crate upon which I sit contains 2,000 Napoleons packed between layers of lead foil our reserve of bullion is much larger at present than is usually kept in a single branch office and the directors have had misgivings upon the subject which were very well justified observed Holmes and now it is time that we arranged our little plans I expect that within an hour matters will come to a head in the meantime mr Merryweather we must put the screen over that dark Lantern and sit in the dark I’m afraid so I had brought a pack of cards in my pocket and I thought that as we were a partie Caray you might have your rubber after all but I see that the enemy’s preparations have gone so far we cannot risk the presence of a light and first of all we must choose our positions these are daring men and though we shall take them at a disadvantage they may do us some harm unless we are careful I shall stand behind this crate and do you conceal yourself behind those then when I flash a light upon them close in swiftly if they fire Watson have no compunction about shooting them down I place my revolver cocked upon the top of the wooden case behind which I crouched Holmes shot the slide across the front of his lantern and left us in pitch darkness such an absolute darkness as I have never before experienced the smell of hot metal remained to assure us that the light was still there ready to flash out at a moment’s notice to me with my nerves worked up to a pitch of expectancy there was something depressing and subduing in the sudden gloom and in the cold dank air of the vault they have put one retreat whispered Holmes that he’s back through the house into saxe-coburg square I hope that you have done what I asked you Jones I have an inspector and two officers waiting at the front door then we have stopped all the holes and now we must be silent and wait what a time it seemed from comparing notes afterwards it was about an hour and a quarter yet it appeared to me that the night must have almost gone and the dawn be breaking above us my limbs were weary and stiff for I feared to change my position yet my nerves were worked up to the highest pitch of tension and my hearing was so acute that I could not only hear the gentle breathing of my companions but I could distinguish the deeper heavier in-breath of the bulky Jones from the thin sighing note of the bank director from my position I could look over the case in the direction of the floor suddenly my eyes caught the glint of a light at first it was but a lurid spark upon the stone pavement then it lengthened out until it became a yellow line and then without any warning or sound – seemed to open and a hand appeared a white almost womanly hand which felt about in the center of the little area of light for a moment or more the hand with its writhing fingers protruded out of the floor then it was withdrawn as suddenly as it appeared door was dark again saved the single lurid spark which marked a chink between the stones its disappearance however was but momentary

with a rending tearing sound one of the broad white stones turned over upon its side and left a square gaping hole through which streamed the light of a lantern over the edge there peeped a clean-cut boyish face which looked keenly about it and then with a hand on either side of the aperture drew itself shoulder-high and waist-high until one knee rested upon the edge in another instant he stood at the side of the hole and was hauling after him a companion live and small like himself with a pale face and a shock of very red hair it’s all clear he whispered have you the chisel and the backs Great Scott jump Archie jump and I’ll swing for it Sherlock Holmes had sprung out and seized the intruder by the collar the other dived down the hole and I heard the sound of rending cloth as Jones clutched at his skirts the light flashed upon the barrel of a revolver but Holmes his hunting-crop came down on the man’s wrist and the pistol clinked upon the stone floor it’s no use John clay said Holmes blandly you have no chance at all so I see the other answered with the utmost coolness I fancy that my pal is all right though I see that you have got his coattails there are three men waiting for him at the door said Holmes Oh indeed you seem to have done the thing very completely I must compliment you and I you Holmes answered your redheaded idea was very new and effective you’ll see your pal again presently said Jones he’s quicker at climbing down holes than I am just hold out while I fixed the derbies I beg that you will not touch me with your filthy hands remarked our prisoner as the handcuffs clattered upon his wrists you may not be aware that I have royal blood in my veins have the goodness also when you address me always to say sir and please all right said Jones with a stare and a snigger will would you please sir March upstairs where we can get a cab to carry your highness to the police-station that is better said John Clay serenely he made a sweeping bow to the three of us and walked quietly off in the custody of the detective really mr. Holmes said Mr Merryweather as we followed them from the cellar I do not know how the bank can thank you or repay you there is no doubt that you have detected and defeated in the most complete manner one of the most determined attempts at bank robbery that have ever come within my experience I have had one or two little scores of my own to settle with mr. John clay said Holmes I have been at some small expense over this matter which I shall expect the bank to refund but beyond that I am amply repaid by having had an experience which is in many ways unique and by hearing the very remarkable narrative of the red-headed league you see Watson he explained in the early hours of the morning as we sat over a glass of whisky and soda in baker street it was perfectly obvious from the first that the only possible object of this rather fantastic business of the advertisement of the league and the copying of the encyclopaedia must be to get this not over-bright pawnbroker out of the way for a number of hours every day it was a curious way of managing it but really it would be difficult to suggest a better the method was no doubt suggested to Clay’s ingenious mind by the colour of his accomplices hair the four pounds a week was a lure which must draw him and what was it to them who were playing for thousands they put in the advertisement one rogue has the temporary office the other rogue incites the man to apply for it and together they managed to secure his absence every morning in the week from the time that I heard of the assistant having come for half wages it was obvious to me that he had some strong motive for securing the situation but how could you guess what the motive was had there been women in the house I should have suspected a mere vulgar intrigue that however was out of the question the man’s business was a small one and there was nothing in his house which could account for such elaborate preparations and such an expenditure as they were at it must then be something out of the house what could it be I thought of the assistants fondness for photography and his trick of vanishing into the cellar the cellar there was the end of this tangled clue then I made inquiries as to this mysterious assistant and found that I had to deal with one of the coolest and most daring criminals in London he was doing something in the cellar something which took many hours a day for months on end what could it be once more I could think of nothing save that he was running a tunnel to some

other building so far I had got when we went to visit the scene of action I surprised you by beating upon the pavement with my stick I was ascertaining whether the cellar stretched out in front or behind it was not in front then I rang the bell and as I hoped the assistant answered it we have had some skirmishes but we had never set eyes on each other before I hardly looked at his face his knees were what I wish to see you must yourself have remarked how worn wrinkled and stained they were they spoke of those hours of burrowing the only remaining point was what they were burrowing for I walked round the corner saw that the city and Suburban bank abutted on our friends premises and felt that I had solved my problem when you drove home after the concert I called upon Scotland Yard and upon the chairman of the bank directors with the result that you have seen and how could you tell that they would make their attempt tonight I asked well when they closed their league offices that was a sign that they cared no longer about mr. Jabez Wilson’s presence in other words that they had completed their tunnel but it was essential that they should use it soon as it might be discovered or the bullion might be removed saturday would suit them better than any other day as it would give them two days for their escape for all these reasons I expected them to come tonight you’ve reasoned it out beautifully I exclaimed in unfeigned admiration it is so long a chain and yet every link rings true it saved me from ennui he answered yawning alas I already feel it closing in upon me my life is spent in one long effort to escape from the commonplaces of existence these little problems helped me to do so and you are a benefactor of the race said I he shrugged his shoulders well perhaps after all it is of some little use he remarked long Syria live was said to as gustave flaubert wrote to roll sand