“I, too, wished to have some words with you, Holmes. That is why I am here. I won’t deny that I intended to assault you just now.”
Holmes swung his leg on the edge of the table.
“I rather gathered that you had some idea of the sort in your head,” said he. “But why these personal attentions?”
“Because you have gone out of your way to annoy me. Because you have put your creatures upon my track.”
“My creatures! I assure you no!”
“Nonsense! I have had them followed. Two can play at that game, Holmes.”
“It is a small point, Count Sylvius, but perhaps you would kindly give me my prefix when you address me. You can understand that, with my routine of work, I should find myself on familiar terms with half the rogues’ gallery, and you will agree that exceptions are invidious.”
“Well, Mr. Holmes, then.”
“Excellent! But I assure you you are mistaken about my alleged agents.”
Count Sylvius laughed contemptuously.
“Other people can observe as well as you. Yesterday there was an old sporting man. To-day it was an elderly woman. They held me in view all day.”
“Really, sir, you compliment me. Old Baron Dowson said the night before he was hanged that in my case what the law had gained the stage had lost. And now you give my little impersonations your kindly praise?”
“It was you–you yourself?”
Holmes shrugged his shoulders. “You can see in the corner the parasol which you so politely handed to me in the Minories before you began to suspect.”
“If I had known, you might never–”
“Have seen this humble home again. I was well aware of it. We all have neglected opportunities to deplore. As it happens, you did not know, so here we are!”
The Count’s knotted brows gathered more heavily over his menacing eyes. “What you say only makes the matter worse. It was not your agents but your play-acting, busybody self! You admit that you have dogged me. Why?”
“Come now, Count. You used to shoot lions in Algeria.”
“Why? The sport–the excitement–the danger!”
“And, no doubt, to free the country from a pest?”
“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 lell you where it is?”
“You can, and you will.”