The Crown Diamond
An Evening with Sherlock Holmes
by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
The play was first performed on the stage of the Bristol Hippodrome in 1921 with Dennis Neilson-Terry as Sherlock Holmes. What remains unclear is which version was written first. Most commentators point to the play as being the originator of the story because this explains the lack of a personal narrative by Watson. Is this conclusive evidence?....
Illustration from The Strand
Here is the text of the Crown Diamond:
MR SHERLOCK HOLMES ...... The famous Detective
DR WATSON ...... His Friend
BILLY ...... Page to
MR SHERLOCK HOLMES
MORAN ...... An intellectual Criminal
SAM MERTON ...... A Boxer
Scene: Sherlock Holmes's Room in Baker Street
Mr Holmes's room at Baker Street
It presents the usual features, but there is a deep bow window to it, and across there is drawn a curtain running upon a brass rod fastened across eight feet above the ground, and enclosing recess of the window.
Enter WATSON and BILLY
WATSON: Well, Billy, when will he be back?
BILLY: I'm sure I couldn't say, sir.
WATSON: When did you see him last?
BILLY: I really couldn't tell you.
WATSON: What, you couldn't tell me?
BILLY: No, sir. There was a clergyman looked in yesterday, and there was an old bookmaker, and there was a workman.
BILLY: But I'm not sure they weren't all Mr Holmes. You see, he's very hot on a chase just now.
BILLY: He neither eats nor sleeps. Well, you've lived with him same as me. You know what he's like when he's after someone.
WATSON: Yes, I know.
BILLY: He's a responsibility, sir, that he is. It's a real worry to me sometimes. When I asked him if he would order dinner, he said, 'Yes, I'll have chops and mashed potatoes at seven-thirty the day after tomorrow.' 'Won't you eat before then, sir?' I asked. 'I haven't time, Billy, I'm busy,' said he. He gets thinner and paler, and his eyes get brighter. It's awful to see him.
WATSON: Tut, tut, this will never do. I must certainly stop and see him.
BILLY: Yes, sir, it will ease my mind.
WATSON: But what is he after?
BILLY: It's this case of the Crown diamond.
WATSON: What, the hundred-thousand-pound burglary?
BILLY: Yes, sir. They must get it back, sir. Why, we had the Prime Minister and the Home Secretary both sitting on that very sofa. Mr Holmes promised he'd do his very best for them. Quite nice to them he was. Put them at their ease in a moment.
WATSON: Dear me! I've read about it in the paper. But I say, Billy, what have you been doing to the room? What's this curtain?
BILLY: I don't know, sir. Mr Holmes had it put there three days ago. But we've got something funny behind it.
WATSON: Something funny?
BILLY (laughing): Yes, sir. He had it made.
(BILLY goes to the curtain and draws it across, disclosing a wax image of HOLMES seated in a chair, back to the audience.)
WATSON: Good heavens, Billy!
BILLY: Yes, sir. It's like him, sir. (Picks the head off and exhibits it.)
WATSON: It's wonderful! But what's it for, Billy?
BILLY: You see, sir, he's anxious that those who watch him should think he's at home sometimes when he isn't. There's the bell, sir. (Replaces head, draws curtain.) I must go.
(WATSON sits down, lights a cigarette, and opens a paper.)
Enter a tall, bent OLD WOMAN in black with veil and side-curls
WATSON (rising): Good day, ma'm.
WOMAN: You're not Mr Holmes?
WATSON: No, ma'm. I'm his friend, Dr Watson.
WOMAN: I knew you couldn't be Mr Holmes. I'd always heard he was a handsome man.
WATSON (aside): Upon my word!
WOMAN: But I must see him at once.
WATSON: I assure you he is not in.
WOMAN: I don't believe you.
WOMAN: You have a sly, deceitful face - oh, yes, a wicked, scheming face. Come, young man, where is he?
WATSON: Really, madam!
WOMAN: Very well, I'll find him for myself. He's in there, I believe. (Walks towards bedroom door and gets behind settee.)
WATSON (rising and crossing): That is his bedroom. Really, madam, this is outrageous!
WOMAN: I wonder what he keeps in this safe.
(She approaches it and, as she does so, the lights go out, and the room is in darkness save for 'DON'T TOUCH' in red fire over the safe. Four red lights spring up, and between them the inscription 'DON'T TOUCH.' After a few seconds, the lights go on again and HOLMES is standing beside WATSON.)
WATSON: Good heavens, Holmes!
HOLMES: Neat little alarm, is it not, Watson? My own invention. You tread on a loose plank and so connect the circuit, or I can turn it on myself. It prevents inquisitive people becoming too inquisitive. When I come back I know if anyone has been fooling with my things. It switches off again automatically, as you saw.
WATSON: But, my dear fellow, why this disguise?
HOLMES: A little comic relief, Watson. When I saw you sitting there looking so solemn, I really couldn't help it. But I assure you, there is nothing comic in the business I am engaged upon. Good heavens! (Rushes across room, and draws curtain which has been left partly open.)
WATSON: Why, what is it?
HOLMES: Danger, Watson. Airguns, Watson. I'm expecting something this evening.
WATSON: Expecting what, Holmes?
HOLMES (lighting pipe): Expecting to be murdered, Watson.
WATSON: No, no, you are joking, Holmes!
HOLMES: Even my limited sense of humour could evolve a better joke than that, Watson. No, it is a fact. And in case it should come off--it's about a two to one chance--it would perhaps be as well that you should burden your memory with the name and address of the murderer.
HOLMES: You can give it to Scotland Yard, with my love and a parting blessing. Moran is the name, Colonel Sebastian Moran. Write it down, Watson, write it down! 136, Moorside Gardens, N.W. Got it?
WATSON: But surely something can be done, Holmes. Couldn't you have this fellow arrested?
HOLMES: Yes, Watson, I could. That's what's worrying him so.
WATSON: But why don't you?
HOLMES: Because I don't know where the diamond is.
WATSON: What diamond?
HOLMES: Yes, yes, the great yellow Crown diamond, seventy-seven carats, lad, and without flaw. I have two fish in the net. But I haven't got the stone there. And what's the use of taking them? It's the stone I'm after.
WATSON: Is this Colonel Moran one of the fish in the net?
HOLMES: Yes, and he's a shark. He bites. The other is Sam Merton, the boxer. Not a bad fellow, Sam, but the Colonel has used him. Sam's not a shark. He's a great big silly gudgeon. But he's flopping about in my net all the same.
WATSON: Where is this Colonel Moran?
HOLMES: I've been at his elbow all morning. Once he picked up my parasol. 'By your leave, ma'm,' he said. Life is full of whimsical happenings. I followed him to old Straubenzee's workshop in the Minories. Straubenzee made the airgun--fine bit of work, I understand.
WATSON: An airgun?
HOLMES: The idea was to shoot me through the window. I had to put up that curtain. By the way, have you seen the dummy? (Draws curtain.)
Ah! Billy has been showing you the sights. It may get a bullet through its beautiful wax head at any moment.
BILLY: Colonel Sebastian Moran, sir.
HOLMES: Ah! the man himself. I rather expected it. Grasp the nettle, Watson! A man of nerve. He felt my toe on his heels. (Looks out of window.) And there is Sam Merton in the street--the faithful but fatuous Sam. Where is the Colonel, Billy?
BILLY: Waiting-room, sir.
HOLMES: Show him up when I ring.
BILLY: Yes, sir.
HOLMES: Oh, by the way, Billy, if I am not in the room, show him in just the same.
BILLY: Very good, sir.
WATSON: I'll stay with you, Holmes.
HOLMES: No, my dear fellow, you would be horribly in the way. (Goes to table and scribbles note.)
WATSON: He may murder you.
HOLMES: I shouldn't be surprised.
WATSON: I can't possibly leave you.
HOLMES: Yes, you can, my dear Watson, for you've always played the game, and I am very sure that you will play it to the end. Take this note to Scotland Yard. Come back with the police. The fellow's arrest will follow.
WATSON: I'll do that with joy.
HOLMES: And before you return I have just time to find out where the diamond is. (Rings bell) This way, Watson. We'll go together. I rather want to see my shark without his seeing me.
Exit WATSON and HOLMES into bedroom
Enter BILLY and COLONEL MORAN, who is a fierce, big man, flashily dressed; he carries a heavy cudgel
BILLY: Colonel Sebastian Moran.
(COLONEL MORAN looks round, advances slowly into the room, and starts as he sees the dummy figure sitting in the window. He stares at it, then crouches, grips his stick, and advances on tip-toe. When close to the figure he raises his stick.)
HOLMES comes quickly out of the bedroom door
HOLMES: Don't break it, Colonel! Don't break it!
COLONEL (staggering back): Good Lord!
HOLMES: It's such a pretty little thing. Tavernier, the French modeller, made it. He is as good at waxwork as Straubenzee is at airguns. (Shuts curtains.)
COLONEL: Airguns, sir. Airguns! What do you mean?
HOLMES: Put your hat and stick on the side table. Thank you. Pray take a seat. Would you care to put your revolver out also? Oh, very good, if you prefer to sit upon it.
(COLONEL sits down.)
I wanted to have five minutes' chat with you.
COLONEL: I wanted to have five minutes' chat with you.
(HOLMES sits down near him and crosses his legs.)
I won't deny that I intended to assault you just now.
HOLMES: It struck me that some idea of that sort had crossed your mind.
COLONEL: And with reason, sir, with reason.
HOLMES: But why this attention?
COLONEL: Because you have gone out of your way to annoy me. Because you have put your creatures on my track.
HOLMES: My creatures?
COLONEL: I have had them followed. I know that they come to report to you here.
HOLMES: No, I assure you.
COLONEL: Tut, sir! Other people can observe as well as you. Yesterday there was an old sporting man; today it was an elderly lady. They held me in view all day.
HOLMES: Really, sir, you compliment me! Old Baron Dowson, before he was hanged at Newgate, was good enough to say that in my case what the law had gained the stage had lost. And now you come along with your kindly words. In the name of the elderly lady and of the sporting gentleman I thank you. There was also an out-of-work plumber who was an artistic dream--you seem to have overlooked him.
COLONEL: It was you--you!
HOLMES: Your humble servant! If you doubt it, you can see the parasol upon the settee which you so politely handed to me this morning down in the Minories.
COLONEL: If I had known, you might have never--
HOLMES: Never have seen this humble home again. I was well aware of it. But it happens you didn't know, and here we are, quite chatty and comfortable.
COLONEL: What you say only makes matters worse. It was not your agents, but you yourself, who have dogged me. Why have you done this?
HOLMES: You used to shoot tigers?
COLONEL: Yes, sir.
HOLMES: But why?
COLONEL: Pshaw! Why does any man shoot a tiger--the excitement--the danger!
HOLMES: And, no doubt, the satisfaction of freeing the country from a pest which devastates it and lives on the population?
HOLMES: My reasons in a nutshell!
COLONEL (springing to his feet): Insolent!
HOLMES: Sit down, sir, sit down! There was another, more practical reason.
HOLMES: I want that yellow Crown diamond.
COLONEL: Upon my word! Well, go on.
HOLMES: You knew that I was after you for that. The real reason why you are here tonight is to find out how much I know about the matter. Well, you can take it that I know all about it, save one thing, which you are about to tell me.
COLONEL (sneering): And, pray, what is that?
HOLMES: Where the diamond is.
COLONEL: Oh, you want to know that, do you? How the devil should I know where it is?
HOLMES: You not only know, but you are about to tell me.
COLONEL: Oh, indeed!
HOLMES: You can't bluff me, Colonel. You're absolute plate-glass. I see to the very back of your mind.
COLONEL: Then, of course, you see where the diamond is!
HOLMES: Ah, then you do know. You have admitted it!
COLONEL: I admit nothing.
HOLMES: Now, Colonel, if you will be reasonable, we can do business together. If not, you may get hurt.
COLONEL: And you talk about bluff!
HOLMES (raising a book from the table): Do you know what I keep inside this book?
COLONEL: No, sir, I do not.
HOLMES: Yes, sir, you1 You're all here, every action of your vile and dangerous life.
COLONEL: Damn you, Holmes! Don't go too far!
HOLMES: Some interesting details, Colonel. The real facts as to the death of Miss Minnie Warrender of Laburnum Grove. All here, Colonel.
COLONEL: You--you devil!!
HOLMES: And the story of young Arbuthnot, who was found drowned in the Regent's Canal just before his intended exposure of you for cheating at cards.
COLONEL: I--I never hurt the boy.
HOLMES: But he died at a very seasonable time. Do you want some more, Colonel? Plenty of it here. How about the robbery in the train-de-luxe to the Riviera, February l3th, 1892? How about the forged cheque on the Credit Lyonnais the same year?
COLONEL: No; you're wrong there.
HOLMES: Then I'm right on the others! Now, Colonel, you are a card-player. When the other fellow holds all the trumps, it saves time to throw in your hand.
COLONEL: If there was a word of truth in all this, would I have been a free man all these years?
HOLMES: I was not consulted. There were missing links in the police case; but I have a way of finding missing links. You may take it from me that I could do so.
COLONEL: Bluff, Mr Holmes, bluff!
HOLMES: Oh, you wish me to prove my words! Well, if I touch this bell it means the police, and from that instant the matter is out of my hands. Shall I?
COLONEL: What has all this to do with the jewel you speak of?
HOLMES: Gently, Colonel! Restrain that eager mind! Let me get to the point in my own humdrum way. I have all this against you; and I also have a clear case against both you and your fighting bully in this case of the Crown diamond.
HOLMES: I have the cabman who took you to Whitehall and the cabman who brought you away. I have the commissionaire who saw you beside the case. I have Ikey Cohen who refused to cut it up for you. Ikey has peached, and the game is up.
HOLMES: That's the hand I play from. But there's one card missing. I don't know where this King of Diamonds is.
COLONEL: You never shall know.
HOLMES: Tut, tut! don't turn nasty. Now, consider. You're 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 let me know where it is--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--then, God help you. But this time my commission is to get the stone, not you. (Rings bell.)
COLONEL: But if I refuse?
HOLMES: Then--alas--it must be you, not the stone.
BILLY: Yes, sir.
HOLMES (to COLONEL): I think we had better have your friend Sam at this conference. Billy, you will see a large and very ugly gentleman outside the front door. Ask him to come up, will you?
BILLY: Yes, sir. Suppose he won't come, sir?
HOLMES: No force, Billy! Don't be rough with him. If you tell him Colonel Moran wants him he will come.
BILLY: Yes, sir.
COLONEL: What's the meaning of this, then?
HOLMES: My friend Watson was with me just now. I told him that I had a shark and a gudgeon in my net; now I'm drawing the net and up they come together.
COLONEL (leaning forward): You won't die in your bed, Holmes!
HOLMES: D'you know, I have often had the same idea. For that matter, your own finish is more likely to be perpendicular than horizontal. But these anticipations are morbid. Let us give ourselves up to the unrestrained enjoyment of the present. No good fingering your revolver, my friend, for you know perfectly well that you dare not use it. Nasty, noisy things revolvers. Better stick to airguns, Colonel Moran. Ah! I think I hear the fairy footstep of your estimable partner.
BILLY: Mr Sam Merton.
Enter SAM MERTON, in check suit and loud necktie, yellow covert coat
HOLMES: Good day, Mr Merton. Rather damp in the street, is it not?
MERTON: (to COLONEL): What's the game? What's up?
HOLMES: If I may put it in a nutshell, Mr Merton, I should say it is all up.
MERTON: (to COLONEL): Is this cove tryin' to be funny, or what? I'm not in the funny mood myself.
HOLMES: You'll feel even less humorous as the evening advances, I think I can promise you that. Now, look here, Colonel, I'm a busy man and I can't waste time. I'm going into the bedroom. Pray make yourselves entirely at home in my absence. You can explain to your friend how the matter lies. I shall try over the Barcarolle upon my violin. In (looks at his watch) five minutes I shall return for your final answer. You quite grasp the alternative, don't you? Shall we take you, or shall we have the stone?
Exit HOLMES, taking his violin with him
MERTON: What's that? He knows about the stone?
COLONEL: Yes, he knows a dashed sight too much about it. I'm not sure that he doesn't know all about it.
MERTON: Good Lord!
COLONEL: Ikey Cohen has split.
MERTON: He has, has he? I'll do him down a thick 'un for that.
COLONEL: But that won't help us. We've got to make up our minds what to do.
MERTON: Halt a mo'. He's not listening, is ne? (Approaches bedroom door.) No, it's shut. Looks to me as if it was locked.
Ah! there he is, safe enough. (Goes to curtain.) Here, I say! (Draws it back, disclosing the figure.) Here's that cove again, blast him!
COLONEL: Tut! it's a dummy. Never mind it.
MERTON: A fake is it? (Examines it, and turns the head.) By gosh, I wish I could twist his own as easy! Well, strike me! Madame Tussaud ain't in it.
(As MERTON returns towards the COLONEL, the lights suddenly go out, and the red 'DON'T TOUCH' signal goes up. Figures must transpose at that moment. After a few seconds the lights readjust themselves.)
MERTON: Well, dash my buttons! Look 'ere, guv'nor, this is gettin' on my nerves. Is it unsweetened gin, or what?
COLONEL: Tut! it is some childish hanky-panky of this fellow Holmes, a spring or an alarm or something. Look here, there's no time to lose. He can lag us for the diamond.
MERTON: The hell he can!
COLONEL: But he'll let us slip if we only tell him where the stone is.
MERTON: What, give up the swag! Give up a hundred thousand?
COLONEL: It's one or the other.
MERTON: No way out? You've got the brains, guv'nor, surely you can think a way out of it.
COLONEL: Wait a bit! I've fooled better men than he. Here's the stone in my secret pocket. It can be out of England tonight, and cut into four pieces in Amsterdam before Saturday. He knows nothing of Van Seddor.
MERTON: I thought Van Seddor was to wait till next week.
COLONEL: Yes, he was. But now he must get the next boat. One or other of us must slip round with the stone to the Excelsior, and tell him.
MERTON: But the false bottom ain't in the hat-box yet!
COLONEL: Well, he must take it as it is and chance it. There's not a moment to lose. As to Holmes, we can fool him easily enough. You see, he won't arrest us if he thinks he can get the stone. We'll put him on the wrong track about it, and before he finds it is the wrong track, the stone will be in Amsterdam and we out of the country.
MERTON: That's prime.
COLONEL: You go off now and tell Van Seddor to get a move on him. I'll see this sucker and fill him up with a bogus confession. The stone's in Liverpool--that's what I'll tell him. By the time he finds it isn't, there won't be much of it left, and we'll be on the blue water. (He looks carefully round him, then draws a small leather box from his pocket and holds it out.) Here is the Crown diamond.
HOLMES (taking it, as he rises from chair): I thank you!
COLONEL (staggering back): Curse you, Holmes! (Puts hand in pocket.)
MERTON: To hell with him!
HOLMES: No violence, gentlemen--no violence, I beg of you! It must be very clear to you that your position is an impossible one. The police are waiting below.
COLONEL: You--you devil! How did you get there?
HOLMES: The device is obvious but effective; lights off for a moment and the rest is common sense. It gave me a chance of listening to your racy conversation, which would have been painfully constrained by a knowledge of my presence. No, Colonel, no! I am covering you with a .450 Derringer through the pocket of my dressing-gown. (Rings bell.)
Send them up, Billy.
COLONEL: Well , you've got us, damn you!
MERTON: A fair cop! But, I say, what about that bloomin' fiddle?
HOLMES: Ah, yes, these modern gramophones-wonderful invention, wonderful!