Study Guide

The Maltese Falcon Chapter 13

By Dashiell Hammett

Chapter 13

The Emperor's Gift

  • Spade knocks on Gutman's door and enters holding the boy's pistols. He hands them over to Gutman, who seems impressed by Spade's boldness.
  • Agreeing to tell Spade everything he knows about the black bird, Gutman begins recounting the crazy tale of how the bird came into existence.
  • In 1530, the Knights of Rhodes persuaded Emperor Charles V of Spain to give them Malta. The Emperor agreed under one condition: every year, the Knights had to pay a tribute to the Emperor of one falcon to acknowledge that Malta was still under Spain.
  • The Knights were so grateful for the Emperor's generosity (after all, one measly falcon in exchange for all that land is a pretty sweet deal) that they sent the Emperor not a boring live bird, but a glorious golden falcon encrusted from head to claw in their finest jewels.
  • Over the centuries, the falcon changed hands countless times, passing into the possession of one king to another, until it eventually acquired a layer of black enamel to conceal its real value.
  • Gutman has been looking for the Maltese falcon for seventeen years. He claims to have traced it to Russian general Kemidov in Constantinople. Kemidov knew nothing about the falcon's real value, but still refused to sell it to Gutman after he made an offer to buy it.
  • So Gutman sent Cairo, Thursby, and O'Shaughnessy to steal it from Kemidov. The latter pair succeeded in recovering the statuette, but kept it for themselves (they live by the motto "finders, keepers, losers, weepers").
  • Spade bluffs that he can produce the falcon in a few days, so Gutman offers to pay him handsomely for it.
  • Gutman pours Spade a glass of whiskey, which Spade empties in a single swig.
  • Suddenly, he begins to feel dizzy—his drink has been drugged.
  • When he tries to leave, Gutman calls out for Wilmer, the boy who had been trailing Spade (finally he has a name). Wilmer trips Spade, kicking him in the head, and Spade falls into a deep sleep.