Arthur Conan


His Last Bow

Der letzte Streich von Sherlock Holmes

Übersetzt von Alice und Karl Heinz Berger, Lizenz der Aufbau Verlagsgruppe
Synchronisation und Ergänzungen © Doppeltext 2012












I. The Singular Experience of Mr. John Scott Eccles

I find it re­cor­ded in my note­book that it was a bleak and windy day to­wards the end of March in the year 1892.
Holmes had re­ceived a tele­gram while we sat at our lunch, and he had scribbled a reply.
He made no re­mark, but the mat­ter re­mained in his thoughts, for he stood in front of the fire af­ter­wards
with a thought­ful face, smoking his pipe, and cast­ing an oc­ca­sion­al glance at the mes­sage.
Sud­denly he turned upon me with a mis­chiev­ous twinkle in his eyes.
“I sup­pose, Wat­son, we must look upon you as a man of let­ters,” said he. “How do you define the word ‘grot­esque’?”
“Strange — re­mark­able,” I sug­ges­ted.
He shook his head at my defin­i­tion.
“There is surely something more than that,” said he; “some un­der­ly­ing sug­ges­tion of the tra­gic and the ter­rible.
If you cast your mind back to some of those nar­rat­ives with which you have af­flic­ted a long-suf­fer­ing pub­lic,
you will re­cog­nize how of­ten the grot­esque has deepened into the crim­in­al.
Think of that little af­fair of the red-headed men.
That was grot­esque enough in the out­set, and yet it ended in a des­per­ate at­tempt at rob­bery.
Or, again, there was that most grot­esque af­fair of the five or­ange pips,
which led straight to a mur­der­ous con­spir­acy. The word puts me on the alert.”
“Have you it there?” I asked.
He read the tele­gram aloud.
Have just had most in­cred­ible and grot­esque ex­per­i­ence. May I con­sult you? — Scott Ec­cles, Post Of­fice, Char­ing Cross.
“Man or wo­man?” I asked.
“Oh, man, of course. No wo­man would ever send a reply-paid tele­gram. She would have come.”
“Will you see him?”
“My dear Wat­son, you know how bored I have been since we locked up Col­on­el Car­ruth­ers.
My mind is like a ra­cing en­gine, tear­ing it­self to pieces be­cause it is not con­nec­ted up with the work for which it was built.
Life is com­mon­place, the pa­pers are sterile; au­da­city and ro­mance seem to have passed forever from the crim­in­al world.
Can you ask me, then, wheth­er I am ready to look into any new prob­lem, however trivi­al it may prove?
But here, un­less I am mis­taken, is our cli­ent.”
A meas­ured step was heard upon the stairs, and a mo­ment later a stout,
tall, grey-whiskered and sol­emnly re­spect­able per­son was ushered into the room.
His life his­tory was writ­ten in his heavy fea­tures and pom­pous man­ner.
From his spats to his gold-rimmed spec­tacles he was a Con­ser­vat­ive, a Church­man, a good cit­izen, or­tho­dox and con­ven­tion­al to the last de­gree.
But some amaz­ing ex­per­i­ence had dis­turbed his nat­ive com­pos­ure
and left its traces in his brist­ling hair, his flushed, angry cheeks, and his flur­ried, ex­cited man­ner. He plunged in­stantly into his busi­ness.
“I have had a most sin­gu­lar and un­pleas­ant ex­per­i­ence, Mr. Holmes,” said he. “Nev­er in my life have I been placed in such a situ­ation.
It is most im­prop­er — most out­rageous. I must in­sist upon some ex­plan­a­tion.” He swelled and puffed in his an­ger.
“Pray sit down, Mr. Scott Ec­cles,” said Holmes, in a sooth­ing voice. “May I ask, in the first place, why you came to me at all?”
“Well, sir, it did not ap­pear to be a mat­ter which con­cerned the po­lice, and yet,
when you have heard the facts, you must ad­mit that I could not leave it where it was.
Private de­tect­ives are a class with whom I have ab­so­lutely no sym­pathy, but none the less, hav­ing heard your name —”
“Quite so. But, in the second place, why did you not come at once?”
“What do you mean?”
Holmes glanced at his watch.
“It is a quarter-past two,” he said. “Your tele­gram was dis­patched about one.
But no one can glance at your toi­let and at­tire without see­ing that your dis­turb­ance dates from the mo­ment of your wak­ing.”
Our cli­ent smoothed down his un­brushed hair and felt his un­shaven chin.
“You are right, Mr. Holmes. I nev­er gave a thought to my toi­let.
I was only too glad to get out of such a house. But I have been run­ning round mak­ing in­quir­ies be­fore I came to you.
I went to the house agents, you know, and they said
that Mr. Gar­cia’s rent was paid up all right and that everything was in or­der at Wis­teria Lodge.”
“Come, come, sir,” said Holmes, laugh­ing. “You are like my friend, Dr. Wat­son,
who has a bad habit of telling his stor­ies wrong end fore­most.
Please ar­range your thoughts and let me know, in their due se­quence, ex­actly what those events are which have sent you out un­brushed and un­kempt,
with dress boots and waist­coat buttoned awry, in search of ad­vice and as­sist­ance.”
Our cli­ent looked down with a rue­ful face at his own un­con­ven­tion­al ap­pear­ance.
“I’m sure it must look very bad, Mr. Holmes, and I am not aware that in my whole life such a thing has ever happened be­fore.
But will tell you the whole queer busi­ness, and when I have done so you will ad­mit,
I am sure, that there has been enough to ex­cuse me.”
But his nar­rat­ive was nipped in the bud. There was a bustle out­side,
and Mrs. Hud­son opened the door to ush­er in two ro­bust and of­fi­cial-look­ing in­di­vidu­als,
one of whom was well known to us as In­spect­or Greg­son of Scot­land Yard, an en­er­get­ic, gal­lant, and, with­in his lim­it­a­tions, a cap­able of­ficer.
He shook hands with Holmes and in­tro­duced his com­rade as In­spect­or Baynes, of the Sur­rey Con­stabu­lary.
“We are hunt­ing to­geth­er, Mr. Holmes, and our trail lay in this dir­ec­tion.”
He turned his bull­dog eyes upon our vis­it­or. “Are you Mr. John Scott Ec­cles, of Popham House, Lee?”
“I am.”
“We have been fol­low­ing you about all the morn­ing.”
“You traced him through the tele­gram, no doubt,” said Holmes.
“Ex­actly, Mr. Holmes. We picked up the scent at Char­ing Cross Post Of­fice and came on here.”
“But why do you fol­low me? What do you want?”
“We wish a state­ment, Mr. Scott Ec­cles, as to the events which led up to the death last night of Mr. Aloysi­us Gar­cia, of Wis­teria Lodge, near Esh­er.”
Our cli­ent had sat up with star­ing eyes and every tinge of col­our struck from his as­ton­ished face.
“Dead? Did you say he was dead?”
“Yes, sir, he is dead.”
“But how? An ac­ci­dent?”
“Murder, if ever there was one upon earth.”
“Good God! This is aw­ful! You don’t mean — you don’t mean that I am sus­pec­ted?”
“A let­ter of yours was found in the dead man’s pock­et, and we know by it
that you had planned to pass last night at his house.”
“So I did.”
“Oh, you did, did you?”
Out came the of­fi­cial note­book.
“Wait a bit, Greg­son,” said Sher­lock Holmes. “All you de­sire is a plain state­ment, is it not?”
“And it is my duty to warn Mr. Scott Ec­cles that it may be used against him.”
“Mr. Ec­cles was go­ing to tell us about it when you entered the room. I think, Wat­son, a brandy and soda would do him no harm.
Now, sir, I sug­gest that you take no no­tice of this ad­di­tion to your audi­ence, and that you pro­ceed with your nar­rat­ive ex­actly as you would have done had you nev­er been in­ter­rup­ted.”
Our vis­it­or had gulped off the brandy and the col­our had re­turned to his face.
With a du­bi­ous glance at the in­spect­or’s note­book, he plunged at once into his ex­traordin­ary state­ment.
“I am a bach­el­or,” said he, “and, be­ing of a so­ci­able turn, I cul­tiv­ate a large num­ber of friends.
Among these are the fam­ily of a re­tired brew­er called Melville, liv­ing at Aber­marle Man­sion, Kens­ing­ton.
It was at his table that I met some weeks ago a young fel­low named Gar­cia.
He was, I un­der­stood, of Span­ish des­cent and con­nec­ted in some way with the em­bassy.
He spoke per­fect Eng­lish, was pleas­ing in his man­ners, and as good-look­ing a man as ever I saw in my life.
“In some way we struck up quite a friend­ship, this young fel­low and I.
He seemed to take a fancy to me from the first, and with­in two days of our meet­ing he came to see me at Lee.
One thing led to an­oth­er, and it ended in his in­vit­ing me out to spend a few days at his house,
Wis­teria Lodge, between Esh­er and Ox­shott. Yes­ter­day even­ing I went to Esh­er to ful­fil this en­gage­ment.
“He had de­scribed his house­hold to me be­fore I went there.
He lived with a faith­ful ser­vant, a coun­try­man of his own, who looked after all his needs.
This fel­low could speak Eng­lish and did his house­keep­ing for him.
Then there was a won­der­ful cook, he said, a half-breed whom he had picked up in his travels, who could serve an ex­cel­lent din­ner.
I re­mem­ber that he re­marked what a queer house­hold it was to find in the heart of Sur­rey,
and that I agreed with him, though it has proved a good deal queer­er than I thought.
“I drove to the place — about two miles on the south side of Esh­er.
The house was a fair-sized one, stand­ing back from the road, with a curving drive which was banked with high ever­green shrubs.
It was an old, tumble-down build­ing in a crazy state of dis­repair.
When the trap pulled up on the grass-grown drive in front of the blotched and weath­er-stained door, I had doubts as to my wis­dom in vis­it­ing a man whom I knew so slightly.
He opened the door him­self, however, and greeted me with a great show of cor­di­al­ity.
I was handed over to the manser­vant, a mel­an­choly, swarthy in­di­vidu­al, who led the way, my bag in his hand, to my bed­room.
The whole place was de­press­ing. Our din­ner was tête-à-tête, and though my host did his best to be en­ter­tain­ing,
his thoughts seemed to con­tinu­ally wander, and he talked so vaguely and wildly that I could hardly un­der­stand him.
He con­tinu­ally drummed his fin­gers on the table, gnawed his nails, and gave oth­er signs of nervous im­pa­tience.
The din­ner it­self was neither well served nor well cooked, and the gloomy pres­ence of the ta­cit­urn ser­vant did not help to en­liven us.
I can as­sure you that many times in the course of the even­ing I wished that I could in­vent some ex­cuse which would take me back to Lee.
“One thing comes back to my memory which may have a bear­ing upon the busi­ness that you two gen­tle­men are in­vest­ig­at­ing.
I thought noth­ing of it at the time. Near the end of din­ner a note was handed in by the ser­vant.
I no­ticed that after my host had read it he seemed even more dis­trait and strange than be­fore.
He gave up all pre­tence at con­ver­sa­tion and sat, smoking end­less ci­gar­ettes,
lost in his own thoughts, but he made no re­mark as to the con­tents.
About el­ev­en I was glad to go to bed. Some time later Gar­cia looked in at my door — the room was dark at the time — and asked me if I had rung.
I said that I had not. He apo­lo­gized for hav­ing dis­turbed me so late, say­ing that it was nearly one o’clock.
I dropped off after this and slept soundly all night.
“And now I come to the amaz­ing part of my tale. When I woke it was broad day­light. I glanced at my watch, and the time was nearly nine.
I had par­tic­u­larly asked to be called at eight, so I was very much as­ton­ished at this for­get­ful­ness.
I sprang up and rang for the ser­vant. There was no re­sponse.
I rang again and again, with the same res­ult. Then I came to the con­clu­sion that the bell was out of or­der.
I huddled on my clothes and hur­ried down­stairs in an ex­ceed­ingly bad tem­per to or­der some hot wa­ter.
You can ima­gine my sur­prise when I found that there was no one there.
I shouted in the hall. There was no an­swer. Then I ran from room to room. All were deser­ted.
My host had shown me which was his bed­room the night be­fore, so I knocked at the door. No reply.
I turned the handle and walked in. The room was empty, and the bed had nev­er been slept in. He had gone with the rest.
The for­eign host, the for­eign foot­man, the for­eign cook, all had van­ished in the night! That was the end of my vis­it to Wis­teria Lodge.”

Arthur Conan Doyle
His Last Bow / Der letzte Streich von Sherlock Holmes
Zweisprachige Ausgabe
Übersetzt von Alice und Karl Heinz Berger

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Die Übersetzung erschien erstmals 1984 in Sämtliche Sherlock-Holmes-Erzählungen im Gustav Kiepenheuer Verlag, Leipzig. Gustav Kiepenheuer ist eine Marke der Aufbau Verlag GmbH & Co. KG.
Übersetzung © Aufbau Verlag GmbH & Co. KG, Berlin 1984, 2008.

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