“Get him out of England at any cost,” wrote Holmes to the wife. “There are forces here which may be more dangerous than those he has escaped. There is no safety for your husband in England.”
Two months had gone by, and the case had to some extent passed from our minds. Then one morning there came an enigmatic note slipped into our letter box. “Dear me, Mr. Holmes. Dear me!” said this singular epistle. There was neither superscription nor signature. I laughed at the quaint message; but Holmes showed unwonted seriousness.
“Deviltry, Watson!” he remarked, and sat long with a clouded brow.
Late last night Mrs. Hudson, our landlady, brought up a message that a gentleman wished to see Mr. Holmes, and that the matter was of the utmost importance. Close at the heels of his messenger came Cecil Barker, our friend of the moated Manor House. His face was drawn and haggard.
“I’ve had bad news—terrible news, Mr. Holmes,” said he.
“I feared as much,” said Holmes.
“You have not had a cable, have you?”
“I have had a note from someone who has.”
“It’s poor Douglas. They tell me his name is Edwards; but he will always be Jack Douglas of Benito Canon to me. I told you that they started together for South Africa in the Palmyra three weeks ago.”
“The ship reached Cape Town last night. I received this cable from Mrs. Douglas this morning:
Jack has been lost overboard in gale off St. Helena. No one knows how accident occurred.
“Ha! It came like that, did it?” said Holmes thoughtfully. “Well, I’ve no doubt it was well stage-managed.”
“You mean that you think there was no accident?”
“None in the world.”
“He was murdered?”
“So I think also. These infernal Scowrers, this cursed vindictive nest of criminals—”
“No, no, my good sir,” said Holmes. “There is a master hand here. It is no case of sawed-off shotguns and clumsy six-shooters. You can tell an old master by the sweep of his brush. I can tell a Moriarty when I see one. This crime is from London, not from America.”
“But for what motive?”
“Because it is done by a man who cannot afford to fail, one whose whole unique position depends upon the fact that all he does must succeed. A great brain and a huge organization have been turned to the extinction of one man. It is crushing the nut with the triphammer—an absurd extravagance of energy—but the nut is very effectually crushed all the same.”
“How came this man to have anything to do with it?”