“My reasons in a nutshell!”
The Count sprang to his feet, and his hand involuntarily moved back to his hip-pocket.
“Sit down, sir, sit down! There was another, more practical, reason. I want that yellow diamond!”
Count Sylvius lay back in his chair with an evil smile.
“Upon my word!” said he.
“You knew that I was after you for that. The real reason why you are here to-night is to find out how much I know about the matter and how far my removal is absolutely essential. Well, I should say that, from your point of view, it is absolutely essential, for I know all about it, save only one thing, which you are about to tell me.”
“Oh, indeed! And pray, what is this missing fact?”
“Where the Crown diamond now is.”
The Count looked sharply at his companion. “Oh, you want to know that, do you? How the devil should I be able to tell you where it is?”
“You can, and you will.”
“You can’t bluff me, Count Sylvius.” Holmes’s eyes, as he gazed at him, contracted and lightened until they were like two menacing points of steel. “You are absolute plate-glass. I see to the very back of your mind.”
“Then, of course, you see where the diamond is!”
Holmes clapped his hands with amusement, and then pointed a derisive finger. “Then you do know. You have admitted it!”
“I admit nothing.”
“Now, Count, if you will be reasonable we can do business. If not, you will get hurt.”
Count Sylvius threw up his eyes to the ceiling. “And you talk about bluff!” said he.
Holmes looked at him thoughtfully like a master chess-player who meditates his crowning move. Then he threw open the table drawer and drew out a squat notebook.
“Do you know what I keep in this book?”
“No, sir, I do not!”
“Yes, sir, you! You are all here — every action of yor vile and dangerous life.”
“Damn you, Holmes!” cried the Count with blazing eyes. “There are limits to my patience!”
“It’s all here, Count. The real facts as to the death of old Mrs. Harold, who left you the Blymer estate, which you so rapidly gambled away.”
“You are dreaming!”
“And the complete life history of Miss Minnie Warrender.”
“Tut! You will make nothing of that!”
“Plenty more here, Count. Here is the robbery in the train de-luxe to the Riviera on February 13, 1892. Here is the forged check in the same year on the Credit Lyonnais.”
“No, you’re wrong there.”
“Then I am right on the others! Now, Count, you are a card-player. When the other fellow has all the trumps, it saves time to throw down your hand.”
“What has all this talk to do with the jewel of which you spoke?”
“Gently, Count. Restrain that eager mind! Let me get to the points in my own humdrum fashion. I have all this against you; but, above all, I have a clear case against both you and your fighting bully in the case of the Crown diamond.”
“I have the cabman who took you to Whitehall and the cabman who brought you away. I have the commissionaire who saw you near the case. I have Ikey Sanders, who refused to cut it up for you. Ikey has peached, and the game is up.”
The veins stood out on the Count’s forehead. His dark, hairy hands were clenched in a convulsion of restrained emotion. He tried to speak, but the words would not shape themselves.
“That’s the hand I play from,” said Holmes. “I put it all upon the table. But one card is missing. It’s the king of diamonds. I don’t know where the stone is.”
“You never shall know.”
“No? Now, be reasonable, Count. Consider the situation. You are going to be locked up for twenty years. So is Sam Merton. What good are you going to get out of your diamond? None in the world. But if you hand it over — well, I’ll compound a felony. We don’t want you or Sam. We want the stone. Give that up, and so far as I am concerned you can go free so long as you behave yourself in the future. If you make another slip well, it will be the last. But this time my commission is to get the stone, not you.”
“But if I refuse?”
“Why, then — alas! — it must be you and not the stone.”
Billy had appeared in answer to a ring.
“I think, Count, that it would be as well to have your friend Sam at this conference. After all, his interests should be represented. Billy, you will see a large and ugly gentleman outside the front door. Ask him to come up.”
“If he won’t come, sir?”
“No violence, Billy. Don’t be rough with him. If you tell him that Count Sylvius wants him he will certainly come.”
“What are you going to do now?” asked the Count as Billy disappeared.
“My friend Watson was with me just now. I told him that I had a shark and a gudgeon in my net; now I am drawing the net and up they come together.”
The Count had risen from his chair, and his hand was behind his back. Holmes held something half protruding from the pocket of his dressing-gown.
“You won’t die in your bed, Holmes.”
“I have often had the same idea. Does it matter very much? After all, Count, your own exit is more likely to be perpendicular than horizontal. But these anticipations of the future are morbid. Why not give ourselves up to the unrestrained enjoyment of the present?”
A sudden wild-beast light sprang up in the dark, menacing eyes of the master criminal. Holmes’s figure seemed to grow taller as he grew tense and ready.