OUR prisoner’s furious resistance did not apparently indicate any
ferocity in his disposition towards ourselves, for on finding himself
powerless, he smiled in an affable manner, and expressed his hopes that
he had not hurt any of us in the scuffle. “I guess you’re going to take
me to the police-station,” he remarked to Sherlock Holmes. “My cab’s at
the door. If you’ll loose my legs I’ll walk down to it. I’m not so light
to lift as I used to be.”
Gregson and Lestrade exchanged glances as if they thought this
proposition rather a bold one; but Holmes at once took the prisoner at
his word, and loosened the towel which we had bound round his ancles.
[23] He rose and stretched his legs, as though to assure himself that
they were free once more. I remember that I thought to myself, as I eyed
him, that I had seldom seen a more powerfully built man; and his dark
sunburned face bore an expression of determination and energy which was
as formidable as his personal strength.
“If there’s a vacant place for a chief of the police, I reckon you
are the man for it,” he said, gazing with undisguised admiration at my
fellow-lodger. “The way you kept on my trail was a caution.”
“You had better come with me,” said Holmes to the two detectives.
“I can drive you,” said Lestrade.
“Good! and Gregson can come inside with me. You too, Doctor, you have
taken an interest in the case and may as well stick to us.”
I assented gladly, and we all descended together. Our prisoner made no
attempt at escape, but stepped calmly into the cab which had been his,
and we followed him. Lestrade mounted the box, whipped up the horse, and
brought us in a very short time to our destination. We were ushered into
a small chamber where a police Inspector noted down our prisoner’s name
and the names of the men with whose murder he had been charged. The
official was a white-faced unemotional man, who went through his
duties in a dull mechanical way. “The prisoner will be put before the
magistrates in the course of the week,” he said; “in the mean time, Mr.
Jefferson Hope, have you anything that you wish to say? I must warn you
that your words will be taken down, and may be used against you.”
“I’ve got a good deal to say,” our prisoner said slowly. “I want to tell
you gentlemen all about it.”
“Hadn’t you better reserve that for your trial?” asked the Inspector.
“I may never be tried,” he answered. “You needn’t look startled. It
isn’t suicide I am thinking of. Are you a Doctor?” He turned his fierce
dark eyes upon me as he asked this last question.
“Yes; I am,” I answered.
“Then put your hand here,” he said, with a smile, motioning with his
manacled wrists towards his chest.
I did so; and became at once conscious of an extraordinary throbbing and
commotion which was going on inside. The walls of his chest seemed to
thrill and quiver as a frail building would do inside when some powerful
engine was at work. In the silence of the room I could hear a dull
humming and buzzing noise which proceeded from the same source.
“Why,” I cried, “you have an aortic aneurism!”
“That’s what they call it,” he said, placidly. “I went to a Doctor last
week about it, and he told me that it is bound to burst before many days
passed. It has been getting worse for years. I got it from over-exposure
and under-feeding among the Salt Lake Mountains. I’ve done my work now,
and I don’t care how soon I go, but I should like to leave some account
of the business behind me. I don’t want to be remembered as a common
The Inspector and the two detectives had a hurried discussion as to the
advisability of allowing him to tell his story.
“Do you consider, Doctor, that there is immediate danger?” the former
asked, [24]
“Most certainly there is,” I answered.
“In that case it is clearly our duty, in the interests of justice, to
take his statement,” said the Inspector. “You are at liberty, sir, to
give your account, which I again warn you will be taken down.”
“I’ll sit down, with your leave,” the prisoner said, suiting the action
to the word. “This aneurism of mine makes me easily tired, and the
tussle we had half an hour ago has not mended matters. I’m on the brink
of the grave, and I am not likely to lie to you. Every word I say is the
absolute truth, and how you use it is a matter of no consequence to me.”
With these words, Jefferson Hope leaned back in his chair and began
the following remarkable statement. He spoke in a calm and methodical
manner, as though the events which he narrated were commonplace enough.
I can vouch for the accuracy of the subjoined account, for I have had
access to Lestrade’s note-book, in which the prisoner’s words were taken
down exactly as they were uttered.
“It don’t much matter to you why I hated these men,” he said; “it’s
enough that they were guilty of the death of two human beings–a father
and a daughter–and that they had, therefore, forfeited their own
lives. After the lapse of time that has passed since their crime, it was
impossible for me to secure a conviction against them in any court. I
knew of their guilt though, and I determined that I should be judge,
jury, and executioner all rolled into one. You’d have done the same, if
you have any manhood in you, if you had been in my place.
“That girl that I spoke of was to have married me twenty years ago. She
was forced into marrying that same Drebber, and broke her heart over
it. I took the marriage ring from her dead finger, and I vowed that his
dying eyes should rest upon that very ring, and that his last thoughts
should be of the crime for which he was punished. I have carried
it about with me, and have followed him and his accomplice over two
continents until I caught them. They thought to tire me out, but they
could not do it. If I die to-morrow, as is likely enough, I die knowing
that my work in this world is done, and well done. They have perished,
and by my hand. There is nothing left for me to hope for, or to desire.
“They were rich and I was poor, so that it was no easy matter for me to
follow them. When I got to London my pocket was about empty, and I found
that I must turn my hand to something for my living. Driving and riding
are as natural to me as walking, so I applied at a cabowner’s office,
and soon got employment. I was to bring a certain sum a week to the
owner, and whatever was over that I might keep for myself. There was
seldom much over, but I managed to scrape along somehow. The hardest job
was to learn my way about, for I reckon that of all the mazes that ever
were contrived, this city is the most confusing. I had a map beside me
though, and when once I had spotted the principal hotels and stations, I
got on pretty well.
“It was some time before I found out where my two gentlemen were living;
but I inquired and inquired until at last I dropped across them. They
were at a boarding-house at Camberwell, over on the other side of the
river. When once I found them out I knew that I had them at my mercy. I
had grown my beard, and there was no chance of their recognizing me.
I would dog them and follow them until I saw my opportunity. I was
determined that they should not escape me again.
“They were very near doing it for all that. Go where they would about
London, I was always at their heels. Sometimes I followed them on my
cab, and sometimes on foot, but the former was the best, for then they
could not get away from me. It was only early in the morning or late
at night that I could earn anything, so that I began to get behind hand
with my employer. I did not mind that, however, as long as I could lay
my hand upon the men I wanted.
“They were very cunning, though. They must have thought that there was
some chance of their being followed, for they would never go out alone,
and never after nightfall. During two weeks I drove behind them every
day, and never once saw them separate. Drebber himself was drunk half
the time, but Stangerson was not to be caught napping. I watched them
late and early, but never saw the ghost of a chance; but I was not
discouraged, for something told me that the hour had almost come. My
only fear was that this thing in my chest might burst a little too soon
and leave my work undone.
“At last, one evening I was driving up and down Torquay Terrace, as the
street was called in which they boarded, when I saw a cab drive up to
their door. Presently some luggage was brought out, and after a time
Drebber and Stangerson followed it, and drove off. I whipped up my horse
and kept within sight of them, feeling very ill at ease, for I feared
that they were going to shift their quarters. At Euston Station they
got out, and I left a boy to hold my horse, and followed them on to the
platform. I heard them ask for the Liverpool train, and the guard answer
that one had just gone and there would not be another for some hours.
Stangerson seemed to be put out at that, but Drebber was rather pleased
than otherwise. I got so close to them in the bustle that I could hear
every word that passed between them. Drebber said that he had a little
business of his own to do, and that if the other would wait for him he
would soon rejoin him. His companion remonstrated with him, and reminded
him that they had resolved to stick together. Drebber answered that the
matter was a delicate one, and that he must go alone. I could not catch
what Stangerson said to that, but the other burst out swearing, and
reminded him that he was nothing more than his paid servant, and that he
must not presume to dictate to him. On that the Secretary gave it up
as a bad job, and simply bargained with him that if he missed the last
train he should rejoin him at Halliday’s Private Hotel; to which Drebber
answered that he would be back on the platform before eleven, and made
his way out of the station.
“The moment for which I had waited so long had at last come. I had my
enemies within my power. Together they could protect each other,
but singly they were at my mercy. I did not act, however, with undue
precipitation. My plans were already formed. There is no satisfaction in
vengeance unless the offender has time to realize who it is that strikes
him, and why retribution has come upon him. I had my plans arranged by
which I should have the opportunity of making the man who had wronged me
understand that his old sin had found him out. It chanced that some days
before a gentleman who had been engaged in looking over some houses in
the Brixton Road had dropped the key of one of them in my carriage. It
was claimed that same evening, and returned; but in the interval I had
taken a moulding of it, and had a duplicate constructed. By means of
this I had access to at least one spot in this great city where I could
rely upon being free from interruption. How to get Drebber to that house
was the difficult problem which I had now to solve.
“He walked down the road and went into one or two liquor shops, staying
for nearly half-an-hour in the last of them. When he came out he
staggered in his walk, and was evidently pretty well on. There was a
hansom just in front of me, and he hailed it. I followed it so close
that the nose of my horse was within a yard of his driver the whole way.
We rattled across Waterloo Bridge and through miles of streets, until,
to my astonishment, we found ourselves back in the Terrace in which he
had boarded. I could not imagine what his intention was in returning
there; but I went on and pulled up my cab a hundred yards or so from
the house. He entered it, and his hansom drove away. Give me a glass of
water, if you please. My mouth gets dry with the talking.”
I handed him the glass, and he drank it down.
“That’s better,” he said. “Well, I waited for a quarter of an hour, or
more, when suddenly there came a noise like people struggling inside the
house. Next moment the door was flung open and two men appeared, one of
whom was Drebber, and the other was a young chap whom I had never seen
before. This fellow had Drebber by the collar, and when they came to
the head of the steps he gave him a shove and a kick which sent him half
across the road. ‘You hound,’ he cried, shaking his stick at him; ‘I’ll
teach you to insult an honest girl!’ He was so hot that I think he would
have thrashed Drebber with his cudgel, only that the cur staggered away
down the road as fast as his legs would carry him. He ran as far as the
corner, and then, seeing my cab, he hailed me and jumped in. ‘Drive me
to Halliday’s Private Hotel,’ said he.
“When I had him fairly inside my cab, my heart jumped so with joy that
I feared lest at this last moment my aneurism might go wrong. I drove
along slowly, weighing in my own mind what it was best to do. I might
take him right out into the country, and there in some deserted lane
have my last interview with him. I had almost decided upon this, when he
solved the problem for me. The craze for drink had seized him again, and
he ordered me to pull up outside a gin palace. He went in, leaving word
that I should wait for him. There he remained until closing time, and
when he came out he was so far gone that I knew the game was in my own
“Don’t imagine that I intended to kill him in cold blood. It would only
have been rigid justice if I had done so, but I could not bring myself
to do it. I had long determined that he should have a show for his life
if he chose to take advantage of it. Among the many billets which I
have filled in America during my wandering life, I was once janitor and
sweeper out of the laboratory at York College. One day the professor was
lecturing on poisions, [25] and he showed his students some alkaloid,
as he called it, which he had extracted from some South American arrow
poison, and which was so powerful that the least grain meant instant
death. I spotted the bottle in which this preparation was kept, and when
they were all gone, I helped myself to a little of it. I was a fairly
good dispenser, so I worked this alkaloid into small, soluble pills, and
each pill I put in a box with a similar pill made without the poison.
I determined at the time that when I had my chance, my gentlemen should
each have a draw out of one of these boxes, while I ate the pill that
remained. It would be quite as deadly, and a good deal less noisy than
firing across a handkerchief. From that day I had always my pill boxes
about with me, and the time had now come when I was to use them.

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“It was nearer one than twelve, and a wild, bleak night, blowing hard
and raining in torrents. Dismal as it was outside, I was glad within–so
glad that I could have shouted out from pure exultation. If any of you
gentlemen have ever pined for a thing, and longed for it during twenty
long years, and then suddenly found it within your reach, you would
understand my feelings. I lit a cigar, and puffed at it to steady my
nerves, but my hands were trembling, and my temples throbbing with
excitement. As I drove, I could see old John Ferrier and sweet Lucy
looking at me out of the darkness and smiling at me, just as plain as I
see you all in this room. All the way they were ahead of me, one on each
side of the horse until I pulled up at the house in the Brixton Road.
“There was not a soul to be seen, nor a sound to be heard, except the
dripping of the rain. When I looked in at the window, I found Drebber
all huddled together in a drunken sleep. I shook him by the arm, ‘It’s
time to get out,’ I said.
“‘All right, cabby,’ said he.
“I suppose he thought we had come to the hotel that he had mentioned,
for he got out without another word, and followed me down the garden.
I had to walk beside him to keep him steady, for he was still a little
top-heavy. When we came to the door, I opened it, and led him into the
front room. I give you my word that all the way, the father and the
daughter were walking in front of us.
“‘It’s infernally dark,’ said he, stamping about.
“‘We’ll soon have a light,’ I said, striking a match and putting it to
a wax candle which I had brought with me. ‘Now, Enoch Drebber,’ I
continued, turning to him, and holding the light to my own face, ‘who am
“He gazed at me with bleared, drunken eyes for a moment, and then I
saw a horror spring up in them, and convulse his whole features, which
showed me that he knew me. He staggered back with a livid face, and I
saw the perspiration break out upon his brow, while his teeth chattered
in his head. At the sight, I leaned my back against the door and laughed
loud and long. I had always known that vengeance would be sweet, but I
had never hoped for the contentment of soul which now possessed me.
“‘You dog!’ I said; ‘I have hunted you from Salt Lake City to St.
Petersburg, and you have always escaped me. Now, at last your wanderings
have come to an end, for either you or I shall never see to-morrow’s sun
rise.’ He shrunk still further away as I spoke, and I could see on his
face that he thought I was mad. So I was for the time. The pulses in my
temples beat like sledge-hammers, and I believe I would have had a fit
of some sort if the blood had not gushed from my nose and relieved me.
“‘What do you think of Lucy Ferrier now?’ I cried, locking the door, and
shaking the key in his face. ‘Punishment has been slow in coming, but it
has overtaken you at last.’ I saw his coward lips tremble as I spoke. He
would have begged for his life, but he knew well that it was useless.
“‘Would you murder me?’ he stammered.
“‘There is no murder,’ I answered. ‘Who talks of murdering a mad dog?
What mercy had you upon my poor darling, when you dragged her from her
slaughtered father, and bore her away to your accursed and shameless
“‘It was not I who killed her father,’ he cried.
“‘But it was you who broke her innocent heart,’ I shrieked, thrusting
the box before him. ‘Let the high God judge between us. Choose and
eat. There is death in one and life in the other. I shall take what you
leave. Let us see if there is justice upon the earth, or if we are ruled
by chance.’
“He cowered away with wild cries and prayers for mercy, but I drew my
knife and held it to his throat until he had obeyed me. Then I swallowed
the other, and we stood facing one another in silence for a minute or
more, waiting to see which was to live and which was to die. Shall I
ever forget the look which came over his face when the first warning
pangs told him that the poison was in his system? I laughed as I saw
it, and held Lucy’s marriage ring in front of his eyes. It was but for
a moment, for the action of the alkaloid is rapid. A spasm of pain
contorted his features; he threw his hands out in front of him,
staggered, and then, with a hoarse cry, fell heavily upon the floor. I
turned him over with my foot, and placed my hand upon his heart. There
was no movement. He was dead!
“The blood had been streaming from my nose, but I had taken no notice of
it. I don’t know what it was that put it into my head to write upon the
wall with it. Perhaps it was some mischievous idea of setting the police
upon a wrong track, for I felt light-hearted and cheerful. I remembered
a German being found in New York with RACHE written up above him, and it
was argued at the time in the newspapers that the secret societies must
have done it. I guessed that what puzzled the New Yorkers would puzzle
the Londoners, so I dipped my finger in my own blood and printed it on
a convenient place on the wall. Then I walked down to my cab and found
that there was nobody about, and that the night was still very wild. I
had driven some distance when I put my hand into the pocket in which
I usually kept Lucy’s ring, and found that it was not there. I was
thunderstruck at this, for it was the only memento that I had of her.
Thinking that I might have dropped it when I stooped over Drebber’s
body, I drove back, and leaving my cab in a side street, I went boldly
up to the house–for I was ready to dare anything rather than lose
the ring. When I arrived there, I walked right into the arms of a
police-officer who was coming out, and only managed to disarm his
suspicions by pretending to be hopelessly drunk.
“That was how Enoch Drebber came to his end. All I had to do then was
to do as much for Stangerson, and so pay off John Ferrier’s debt. I knew
that he was staying at Halliday’s Private Hotel, and I hung about all
day, but he never came out. [26] fancy that he suspected something when
Drebber failed to put in an appearance. He was cunning, was Stangerson,
and always on his guard. If he thought he could keep me off by staying
indoors he was very much mistaken. I soon found out which was the window
of his bedroom, and early next morning I took advantage of some ladders
which were lying in the lane behind the hotel, and so made my way into
his room in the grey of the dawn. I woke him up and told him that the
hour had come when he was to answer for the life he had taken so long
before. I described Drebber’s death to him, and I gave him the same
choice of the poisoned pills. Instead of grasping at the chance of
safety which that offered him, he sprang from his bed and flew at my
throat. In self-defence I stabbed him to the heart. It would have been
the same in any case, for Providence would never have allowed his guilty
hand to pick out anything but the poison.
“I have little more to say, and it’s as well, for I am about done up.
I went on cabbing it for a day or so, intending to keep at it until I
could save enough to take me back to America. I was standing in the
yard when a ragged youngster asked if there was a cabby there called
Jefferson Hope, and said that his cab was wanted by a gentleman at 221B,
Baker Street. I went round, suspecting no harm, and the next thing I
knew, this young man here had the bracelets on my wrists, and as neatly
snackled [27] as ever I saw in my life. That’s the whole of my story,
gentlemen. You may consider me to be a murderer; but I hold that I am
just as much an officer of justice as you are.”
So thrilling had the man’s narrative been, and his manner was so
impressive that we had sat silent and absorbed. Even the professional
detectives, _blasé_ as they were in every detail of crime, appeared to
be keenly interested in the man’s story. When he finished we sat for
some minutes in a stillness which was only broken by the scratching
of Lestrade’s pencil as he gave the finishing touches to his shorthand
“There is only one point on which I should like a little more
information,” Sherlock Holmes said at last. “Who was your accomplice who
came for the ring which I advertised?”
The prisoner winked at my friend jocosely. “I can tell my own secrets,”
he said, “but I don’t get other people into trouble. I saw your
advertisement, and I thought it might be a plant, or it might be the
ring which I wanted. My friend volunteered to go and see. I think you’ll
own he did it smartly.”
“Not a doubt of that,” said Holmes heartily.
“Now, gentlemen,” the Inspector remarked gravely, “the forms of the law
must be complied with. On Thursday the prisoner will be brought before
the magistrates, and your attendance will be required. Until then I will
be responsible for him.” He rang the bell as he spoke, and Jefferson
Hope was led off by a couple of warders, while my friend and I made our
way out of the Station and took a cab back to Baker Street.