Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes
Sir Author Conan Doyle
Part 2 out of 7
this morning it occurred to me that you were the man
to advise me, so I have hurried to you now, and I
place myself unreservedly in your hands. If there is
any point which I have not made clear, pray question
me about it. But, above all, tell me quickly what I
am to do, for this misery is more than I can bear."
Holmes and I had listened with the utmost interest to
this extraordinary statement, which had been delivered
in the jerky, broken fashion of a man who is under the
influence of extreme emotions. My companion sat
silent for some time, with his chin upon his hand,
lost in thought.
"Tell me," said he at last, "could you swear that this
was a man's face which you saw at the window?"
"Each time that I saw it I was some distance away from
it, so that it is impossible for me to say."
"You appear, however, to have been disagreeably
impressed by it."
"It seemed to be of an unnatural color, and to have a
strange rigidity about the features. When I
approached, it vanished with a jerk."
"How long is it since your wife asked you for a
"Nearly two months."
"Have you ever seen a photograph of her first
"No; there was a great fire at Atlanta very shortly
after his death, and all her papers were destroyed."
"And yet she had a certificate of death. You say that
you saw it."
"Yes; she got a duplicate after the fire."
"Did you ever meet any one who knew her in America?"
"Did she ever talk of revisiting the place?"
"Or get letters from it?"
"Thank you. I should like to think over the matter a
little now. If the cottage is now permanently
deserted we may have some difficulty. If, on the
other hand, as I fancy is more likely, the inmates
were warned of you coming, and left before you entered
yesterday, then they may be back now, and we should
clear it all up easily. Let me advise you, then, to
return to Norbury, and to examine the windows of the
cottage again. If you have reason to believe that is
inhabited, do not force your way in, but send a wire
to my friend and me. We shall be with you within an
hour of receiving it, and we shall then very soon get
to the bottom of the business."
"And if it is still empty?"
"In that case I shall come out to-morrow and talk it
over with you. Good-by; and, above all, do not fret
until you know that you really have a cause for it."
"I am afraid that this is a bad business, Watson,"
said my companion, as he returned after accompanying
Mr. Grant Munro to the door. "What do you make of
"It had an ugly sound," I answered.
"Yes. There's blackmail in it, or I am much
"And who is the blackmailer?"
"Well, it must be the creature who lives in the only
comfortable room in the place, and has her photograph
above his fireplace. Upon my word, Watson, there is
something very attractive about that livid face at the
window, and I would not have missed the case for
"You have a theory?"
"Yes, a provisional one. But I shall be surprised if
it does not turn out to be correct. This woman's
first husband is in that cottage."
"Why do you think so?"
"How else can we explain her frenzied anxiety that her
second one should not enter it? The facts, as I read
them, are something like this: This woman was married
in America. Her husband developed some hateful
qualities; or shall we say that he contracted some
loathsome disease, and became a leper or an imbecile?
She flies from him at last, returns to England,
changes her name, and starts her life, as she thinks,
afresh. She has been married three years, and
believes that her position is quite secure, having
shown her husband the death certificate of some man
whose name she has assumed, when suddenly her
whereabouts is discovered by her first husband; or, we
may suppose, by some unscrupulous woman who has
attached herself to the invalid. They write to the
wife, and threaten to come and expose her. She asks
for a hundred pounds, and endeavors to buy them off.
They come in spite of it, and when the husband
mentions casually to the wife that there a new-comers
in the cottage, she knows in some way that they are
her pursuers. She waits until her husband is asleep,
and then she rushes down to endeavor to persuade them
to leave her in peace. Having no success, she goes
again next morning, and her husband meets her, as he
has told us, as she comes out. She promises him then
not to go there again, but two days afterwards the
hope of getting rid of those dreadful neighbors was
too strong for her, and she made another attempt,
taking down with her the photograph which had probably
been demanded from her. In the midst of this
interview the maid rushed in to say that the master
had come home, on which the wife, knowing that he
would come straight down to the cottage, hurried the
inmates out at the back door, into the grove of
fir-trees, probably, which was mentioned as standing
near. In this way he found the place deserted. I
shall be very much surprised, however, if it still so
when he reconnoitres it this evening. What do you
think of my theory?"
"It is all surmise."
"But at least it covers all the facts. When new facts
come to our knowledge which cannot be covered by it,
it will be time enough to reconsider it. We can do
nothing more until we have a message from our friend
But we had not a very long time to wait for that. It
came just as we had finished our tea. "The cottage is
still tenanted," it said. "Have seen the face again
at the window. Will meet the seven o'clock train, and
will take no steps until you arrive."
He was waiting on the platform when we stepped out,
and we could see in the light of the station lamps
that he was very pale, and quivering with agitation.
"They are still there, Mr. Holmes," said he, laying
his hand hard upon my friend's sleeve. "I saw lights
in the cottage as I came down. We shall settle it now
once and for all."
"What is your plan, then?" asked Holmes, as he walked
down the dark tree-lined road.
"I am going to force my way in and see for myself who
is in the house. I wish you both to be there as
"You are quite determined to do this, in spite of your
wife's warning that it is better that you should not
solve the mystery?"
"Yes, I am determined."
"Well, I think that you are in the right. Any truth
is better than indefinite doubt. We had better go up
at once. Of course, legally, we are putting ourselves
hopelessly in the wrong; but I think that it is worth
It was a very dark night, and a thin rain began to
fall as we turned from the high road into a narrow
lane, deeply rutted, with hedges on either side. Mr.
Grant Munro pushed impatiently forward, however, and
we stumbled after him as best we could.
"There are the lights of my house," he murmured,
pointing to a glimmer among the trees. "And here is
the cottage which I am going to enter."
We turned a corner in the lane as he spoke, and there
was the building close beside us. A yellow bar
falling across the black foreground showed that the
door was not quite closed, and one window in the upper
story was brightly illuminated. As we looked, we saw
a dark blur moving across the blind.
"There is that creature!" cried Grant Munro. "You can
see for yourselves that some one is there. Now follow
me, and we shall soon know all."
We approached the door; but suddenly a woman appeared
out of the shadow and stood in the golden track of the
lamp-light. I could not see her face in the he
darkness, but her arms were thrown out in an attitude
"For God's sake, don't Jack!" she cried. "I had a
presentiment that you would come this evening. Think
better of it, dear! Trust me again, and you will
never have cause to regret it."
"I have trusted you tool long, Effie," he cried,
sternly. "Leave go of me! I must pass you. My
friends and I are going to settle this matter once and
forever!" He pushed her to one side, and we followed
closely after him. As he threw the door open an old
woman ran out in front of him and tried to bar his
passage, but he thrust her back, and an instant
afterwards we were all upon the stairs. Grant Munro
rushed into the lighted room at the top, and we
entered at his heels.
It was a cosey, well-furnished apartment, with two
candles burning upon the table and two upon the
mantelpiece. In the corner, stooping over a desk,
there sat what appeared to be a little girl. Her face
was turned away as we entered, but we could see that
she was dressed in a red frock, and that she had long
white gloves on. As she whisked round to us, I gave a
cry of surprise and horror. The face which she turned
towards us was of the strangest livid tint, and the
features were absolutely devoid of any expression. An
instant later the mystery was explained. Holmes, with
a laugh, passed his hand behind the child's ear, a
mask peeled off from her countenance, an there was a
little coal black negress, with all her white teeth
flashing in amusement at our amazed faces. I burst
out laughing, out of sympathy with her merriment; but
Grant Munro stood staring, with his hand clutching his
"My God!" he cried. "What can be the meaning of
"I will tell you the meaning of it," cried the lady,
sweeping into the room with a proud, set face. "You
have forced me, against my own judgment, to tell you,
and now we must both make the best of it. My husband
died at Atlanta. My child survived."
She drew a large silver locket from her bosom. "You
have never seen this open."
"I understood that it did not open."
She touched a spring, and the front hinged back.
There was a portrait within of a man strikingly
handsome and intelligent-looking, but bearing
unmistakable signs upon his features of his African
"That is John Hebron, of Atlanta," said the lady, "and
a nobler man never walked the earth. I cut myself off
from my race in order to wed him, but never once while
he lived did I for an instant regret it. It was our
misfortune that our only child took after his people
rather than mine. It is often so in such matches, and
little Lucy is darker far than ever her father was.
But dark or fair, she is my own dear little girlie,
and her mother's pet." The little creature ran across
at the words and nestled up against the lady's dress.
"When I left her in America," she continued, "it was
only because her health was weak, and the change might
have done her harm. She was given to the care of a
faithful Scotch woman who had once been our servant.
Never for an instant did I dream of disowning her as
my child. But when chance threw you in my way, Jack,
and I learned to love you, I feared to tell you about
my child. God forgive me, I feared that I should lose
you, and I had not the courage to tell you. I had to
choose between you, and in my weakness I turned away
from my own little girl. For three years I have kept
her existence a secret from you, but I heard from the
nurse, and I knew that all was well with her. At
last, however, there came an overwhelming desire to
see the child once more. I struggled against it, but
in vain. Though I knew the danger, I determined to
have the child over, if it were but for a few weeks.
I sent a hundred pounds to the nurse, and I gave her
instructions about this cottage, so that she might
come as a neighbor, without my appearing to be in any
way connected with her. I pushed my precautions so
far as to order her to keep the child in the house
during the daytime, and to cover up her little face
and hands so that even those who might see her at the
window should not gossip about there being a black
child in the neighborhood. If I had been less
cautious I might have been more wise, but I was half
crazy with fear that you should learn the truth.
"It was you who told me first that the cottage was
occupied. I should have waited for the morning, but I
could not sleep for excitement, and so at last I
slipped out, knowing how difficult it is to awake you.
But you saw me go, and that was the beginning of my
troubles. Next day you had my secret at your mercy,
but you nobly refrained from pursuing your advantage.
Three days later, however, the nurse and child only
just escaped from the back door as you rushed in at
the front one. And now to-night you at last know all,
and I ask you what is to become of us, my child and
me?" She clasped her hands and waited for an answer.
It was a long ten minutes before Grant Munro broke the
silence, and when his answer came it was one of which
I love to think. He lifted the little child, kissed
her, and then, still carrying her, he held his other
hand out to his wife and turned towards the door.
"We can talk it over more comfortably at home," said
he. "I am not a very good man, Effie, but I think
that I am a better one than you have given me credit
Holmes and I followed them down the lane, and my
friend plucked at my sleeve as we came out.
"I think," said he, "that we shall be of more use in
London than in Norbury."
Not another word did he say of the case until late
that night, when he was turning away, with his lighted
candle, for his bedroom.
"Watson," said he, "if it should ever strike you that
I am getting a little over-confident in my powers, or
giving less pains to a case than it deserves, kindly
whisper 'Norbury' in my ear, and I shall be infinitely
obliged to you."
The Stock-Broker's Clerk
Shortly after my marriage I had bought a connection in
the Paddington district. Old Mr. Farquhar, from whom
I purchased it, had at one time an excellent general
practice; but his age, and an affliction of the nature
of St. Vitus's dance from which he suffered, had very
much thinned it. The public not unnaturally goes on
the principle that he who would heal others must
himself be whole, and looks askance at the curative
powers of the man whose own case is beyond the reach
of his drugs. Thus as my predecessor weakened his
practice declined, until when I purchased it from him
it had sunk from twelve hundred to little more than
three hundred a year. I had confidence, however, in
my own youth and energy, and was convinced that in a
very few years the concern would be as flourishing as
For three months after taking over the practice I was
kept very closely at work, and saw little of my friend
Sherlock Holmes, for I was too busy to visit Baker
Street, and he seldom went anywhere himself save upon
professional business. I was surprised, therefore,
when, one morning in June, as I sat reading the
British Medical Journal after breakfast, I heard a
ring at the bell, followed by the high, somewhat
strident tones of my old companion's voice.
"Ah, my dear Watson," said he, striding into the room,
"I am very delighted to see you! I trust that Mrs.
Watson has entirely recovered from all the little
excitements connected with our adventure of the Sign
"Thank you, we are both very well," said I, shaking
him warmly by the hand.
"And I hope, also," he continued, sitting down in the
rocking-chair, "that the cares of medical practice
have not entirely obliterated the interest which you
used to take in our little deductive problems."
"On the contrary," I answered, "it was only last night
that I was looking over my old notes, and classifying
some of our past results."
"I trust that you don't consider your collection
"Not at all. I should wish nothing better than to
have some more of such experiences."
"To-day, for example?"
"Yes, to-day, if you like."
"And as far off as Birmingham?"
"Certainly, if you wish it."
"And the practice?"
"I do my neighbor's when he goes. He is always ready
to work off the debt."
"Ha! Nothing could be better," said Holmes, leaning
back in his chair and looking keenly at me from under
his half closed lids. "I perceive that you have been
unwell lately. Summer colds are always a little
"I was confined to the house by a sever chill for
three days last week. I thought, however, that I had
cast off every trace of it."
"So you have. You look remarkably robust."
"How, then, did you know of it?"
"My dear fellow, you know my methods."
"You deduced it, then?"
"And from what?"
"From your slippers."
I glanced down at the new patent leathers which I was
wearing. "How on earth--" I began, but Holmes
answered my question before it was asked.
"Your slippers are new," he said. "You could not have
had them more than a few weeks. The soles which you
are at this moment presenting to me are slightly
scorched. For a moment I thought they might have got
wet and been burned in the drying. But near the instep
there is a small circular wafer of paper with the
shopman's hieroglyphics upon it. Damp would of course
have removed this. You had, then, been sitting with
our feet outstretched to the fire, which a man would
hardly do even in so wet a June as this if he were in
his full health."
Like all Holmes's reasoning the thing seemed
simplicity itself when it was once explained. He read
the thought upon my features, and his smile had a
tinge of bitterness.
"I am afraid that I rather give myself away when I
explain," said he. "Results without causes are much
more impressive. You are ready to come to Birmingham,
"Certainly. What is the case?"
"You shall hear it all in the train. My client is
outside in a four-wheeler. Can you come at once?"
"In an instant." I scribbled a note to my neighbor,
rushed upstairs to explain the matter to my wife, and
joined Holmes upon the door-step.
"Your neighbor is a doctor," said he, nodding at the
"Yes; he bought a practice as I did."
"An old-established one?"
"Just the same as mine. Both have been ever since the
houses were built."
"Ah! Then you got hold of the best of the two."
"I think I did. But how do you know?"
"By the steps, my boy. Yours are worn three inches
deeper than his. But this gentleman in the cab is my
client, Mr. Hall Pycroft. Allow me to introduce you
to him. Whip your horse up, cabby, for we have only
just time to catch our train."
The man whom I found myself facing was a well built,
fresh- complexioned young fellow, with a frank, honest
face and a slight, crisp, yellow mustache. He wore a
very shiny top hat and a neat suit of sober black,
which made him look what he was--a smart young City
man, of the class who have been labeled cockneys, but
who give us our crack volunteer regiments, and who
turn out more fine athletes and sportsmen than any
body of men in these islands. His round, ruddy face
was naturally full of cheeriness, but the corners of
his mouth seemed to me to be pulled down in a
half-comical distress. It was not, however, until we
were all in a first-class carriage and well started
upon our journey to Birmingham that I was able to
learn what the trouble was which had driven him to
"We have a clear run here of seventy minutes," Holmes
remarked. "I want you, Mr. Hall Pycroft, to tell my
friend your very interesting experience exactly as you
have told it to me, or with more detail if possible.
It will be of use to me to hear the succession of
events again. It is a case, Watson, which may prove
to have something in it, or may prove to have nothing,
but which, at least, presents those unusual and outré
features which are as dear to you as they are to me.
Now, Mr. Pycroft, I shall not interrupt you again."
Our young companion looked at me with a twinkle in his
The worst of the story is, said he, that I show myself
up as such a confounded fool. Of course it may work
out all right, and I don't see that I could have done
otherwise; but if I have lost my crib and get nothing
in exchange I shall feel what a soft Johnnie I have
been. I'm not very good at telling a story, Dr.
Watson, but it is like this with me"
I used to have a billet at Coxon & Woodhouse's, of
Draper's Gardens, but they were let in early in the
spring through the Venezuelan loan, as no doubt you
remember, and came a nasty cropper. I had been with
them five years, and old Coxon gave me a ripping good
testimonial when the smash came, but of course we
clerks were all turned adrift, the twenty-seven of us.
I tried here and tried there, but there were lots of
other chaps on the same lay as myself, and it was a
perfect frost for a long time. I had been taking
three pounds a week at Coxon's, and I had saved about
seventy of them, but I soon worked my way through that
and out at the other end. I was fairly at the end of
my tether at last, and could hardly find the stamps to
answer the advertisements or the envelopes to stick
them to. I had worn out my boots paddling up office
stairs, and I seemed just as far from getting a billet
At last I saw a vacancy at Mawson & Williams's, the
great stock-broking firm in Lombard Street. I dare
say E. C. Is not much in your line, but I can tell you
that this is about the richest house in London. The
advertisement was to be answered by letter only. I
sent in my testimonial and application, but without
the least hope of getting it. Back came an answer by
return, saying that if I would appear next Monday I
might take over my new duties at once, provided that
my appearance was satisfactory. No one knows how
these things are worked. Some people say that the
manager just plunges his hand into the heap and takes
the first that comes. Anyhow it was my innings that
time, and I don't ever wish to feel better pleased.
The screw was a pound a week rise, and the duties just
about the same as at Coxon's.
And now I come to the queer part of the business. I
was in diggings out Hampstead way, 17 Potter's
Terrace. Well, I was sitting doing a smoke that very
evening after I had been promised the appointment,
when up came my landlady with a card which had "Arthur
Pinner, Financial Agent," printed upon it. I had
never heard the name before and could not imagine what
he wanted with me; but, of course, I asked her to show
him up. In he walked, a middle-sized, dark- haired,
dark-eyed, black-bearded man, with a touch of the
Sheeny about his nose. He had a brisk kind of way
with him and spoke sharply, like a man who knew the
value of time.
"Mr. Hall Pycroft, I believe?" said he.
"Yes, sir," I answered, pushing a chair towards him.
"Lately engaged at Coxon & Woodhouse's?"
"And now on the staff of Mawson's."
"Well," said he, "the fact is that I have heard some
really extraordinary stories about your financial
ability. You remember Parker, who used to be Coxon's
manager? He can never say enough about it."
Of course I was pleased to hear this. I had always
been pretty sharp in the office, but I had never
dreamed that I was talked about in the City in this
"You have a good memory?" said he.
"Pretty fair," I answered, modestly.
"Have you kept in touch with the market while you have
been out of work?" he asked.
"Yes. I read the stock exchange list every morning."
"Now that shows real application!" he cried. "That is
the way to prosper! You won't mind my testing you,
will you? Let me see. How are Ayrshires?"
"A hundred and six and a quarter to a hundred and five
"And New Zealand consolidated?"
"A hundred and four."
"And British Broken Hills?"
"Seven to seven-and-six."
"Wonderful!" he cried, with his hands up. "This quite
fits in with all that I had heard. My boy, my boy,
you are very much too good to be a clerk at Mawson's!"
This outburst rather astonished me, as you can think.
"Well," said I, "other people don't think quite so
much of me as you seem to do, Mr. Pinner. I had a
hard enough fight to get this berth, and I am very
glad to have it."
"Pooh, man; you should soar above it. You are not in
your true sphere. Now, I'll tell you how it stands
with me. What I have to offer is little enough when
measured by your ability, but when compared with
Mawson's, it's light to dark. Let me see. When do
you go to Mawson's?"
"Ha, ha! I think I would risk a little sporting
flutter that you don't go there at all."
"Not go to Mawson's?"
"No, sir. By that day you will be the business
manager of the Franco-Midland Hardware Company,
Limited, with a hundred and thirty-four branches in
the towns and villages of France, not counting one in
Brussels and one in San Remo."
This took my breath away. "I never heard of it," said
"Very likely not. It has been kept very quiet, for
the capital was all privately subscribed, and it's too
good a thing to let the public into. My brother,
Harry Pinner, is promoter, and joins the board after
allotment as managing director. He knew I was in the
swim down here, and asked me to pick up a good man
cheap. A young, pushing man with plenty of snap about
him. Parker spoke of you, and that brought me here
tonight. We can only offer you a beggarly five
hundred to start with."
"Five hundred a year!" I shouted.
"Only that at the beginning; but you are to have an
overriding commission of one per cent on all business
done by your agents, and you may take my word for it
that this will come to more than your salary."
"But I know nothing about hardware."
"Tut, my boy; you know about figures."
My head buzzed, and I could hardly sit still in my
chair. But suddenly a little chill of doubt came upon
"I must be frank with you," said I. "Mawson only
gives me two hundred, but Mawson is safe. Now,
really, I know so little about your company that--"
"Ah, smart, smart!" he cried, in a kind of ecstasy of
delight. "You are the very man for us. You are not
to be talked over, and quite right, too. Now, here's
a note for a hundred pounds, and if you think that we
can do business you may just slip it into your pocket
as an advance upon your salary."
"That is very handsome," said I. "When should I take
over my new duties?"
"Be in Birmingham to-morrow at one," said he. "I have
a note in my pocket here which you will take to my
brother. You will find him at 126b Corporation
Street, where the temporary offices of the company are
situated. Of course he must confirm your engagement,
but between ourselves it will be all right."
"Really, I hardly know how to express my gratitude,
Mr. Pinner," said I.
"Not at all, my boy. You have only got your desserts.
There are one or two small things--mere
formalities--which I must arrange with you. You have
a bit of paper beside you there. Kindly write upon it
'I am perfectly willing to act as business manager to
the Franco-Midland Hardware Company, Limited, at a
minimum salary of L500."
I did as he asked, and he put the paper in his pocket.
"There is one other detail," said he. "What do you
intend to do about Mawson's?"
I had forgotten all about Mawson's in my joy. "I'll
write and resign," said I.
"Precisely what I don't want you to do. I had a row
over you with Mawson's manager. I had gone up to ask
him about you, and he was very offensive; accused me
of coaxing you away from the service of the firm, and
that sort of thing. At last I fairly lost my temper.
'If you want good men you should pay them a good
price,' said I.
"'He would rather have our small price than your big
one,' said he.
"'I'll lay you a fiver,' said I, 'that when he has my
offer you'll never so much as hear from him again.'
"'Done!' said he. 'We picked him out of the gutter,
and he won't leave us so easily.' Those were his very
"The impudent scoundrel!" I cried. "I've never so
much as seen him in my life. Why should I consider
him in any way? I shall certainly not write if you
would rather I didn't."
"Good! That's a promise," said he, rising from his
chair. "Well, I'm delighted to have got so good a man
for my brother. Here's your advance of a hundred
pounds, and here is the letter. Make a note of the
address, 126b Corporation Street, and remember that
one o'clock to-morrow is your appointment.
Good-night; and may you have all the fortune that you
That's just about all that passed between us, as near
as I can remember. You can imagine, Dr. Watson, how
pleased I was at such an extraordinary bit of good
fortune. I sat up half the night hugging myself over
it, and next day I was off to Birmingham in a train
that would take me in plenty time for my appointment.
I took my things to a hotel in New Street, and then I
made my way to the address which had been given me.
It was a quarter of an hour before my time, but I
thought that would make no difference. 126b was a
passage between two large shops, which led to a
winding stone stair, from which there were many flats,
let as offices to companies or professional men. The
names of the occupants were painted at the bottom on
the wall, but there was no such name as the
Franco-Midland Hardware Company, Limited. I stood for
a few minutes with my heart in my boots, wondering
whether the whole thing was an elaborate hoax or not,
when up came a man and addressed me. He was very like
the chap I had seen the night before, the same figure
and voice, but he was clean shaven and his hair was
"Are you Mr. Hall Pycroft?" he asked.
"Yes," said I.
"Oh! I was expecting you, but you are a trifle before
your time. I had a note from my brother this morning
in which he sang your praises very loudly."
"I was just looking for the offices when you came."
"We have not got our name up yet, for we only secured
these temporary premises last week. Come up with me,
and we will talk the matter over."
I followed him to the top of a very lofty stair, and
there, right under the slates, were a couple of empty,
dusty little rooms, uncarpeted and uncurtained, into
which he led me. I had thought of a great office with
shining tables and rows of clerks, such as I was used
to, and I dare say I stared rather straight at the two
deal chairs and one little table, which, with a ledger
and a waste paper basket, made up the whole furniture.
"Don't be disheartened, Mr. Pycroft," said my new
acquaintance, seeing the length of my face. "Rome was
not built in a day, and we have lots of money at our
backs, though we don't cut much dash yet in offices.
Pray sit down, and let me have your letter."
I gave it to him, and her read it over very carefully.
"You seem to have made a vast impression upon my
brother Arthur," said he; "and I know that he is a
pretty shrewd judge. Hew swears by London, you know;
and I by Birmingham; but this time I shall follow his
advice. Pray consider yourself definitely engaged."
"What are my duties?" I asked.
"You will eventually manage the great depot in Paris,
which will pour a flood of English crockery into the
shops of a hundred and thirty-four agents in France.
The purchase will be completed in a week, and
meanwhile you will remain in Birmingham and make
For answer, he took a big red book out of a drawer.
"This is a directory of Paris," said he, "with the
trades after the names of the people. I want you to
take it home with you, and to mark off all the hardware
sellers, with their addresses. It would be of the
greatest use to me to have them."
"Surely there are classified lists?" I suggested.
"Not reliable ones. Their system is different from
ours. Stick at it, and let me have the lists by
Monday, at twelve. Good-day, Mr. Pycroft. If you
continue to show zeal and intelligence you will find
the company a good master."
I went back to the hotel with the big book under my
arm, and with very conflicting feelings in my breast.
On the one hand, I was definitely engaged and had a
hundred pounds in my pocket; on the other, the look of
the offices, the absence of name on the wall, and
other of the points which would strike a business man
had left a bad impression as to the position of my
employers. However, come what might, I had my money,
so I settled down to my task. All Sunday I was kept
hard at work, and yet by Monday I had only got as far
as H. I went round to my employer, found him in the
same dismantled kind of room, and was told to keep at
it until Wednesday, and then come again. On Wednesday
it was still unfinished, so I hammered away until
Friday--that is, yesterday. Then I brought it round
to Mr. Harry Pinner.
"Thank you very much," said he; "I fear that I
underrated the difficulty of the task. This list will
be of very material assistance to me."
"It took some time," said I.
"And now," said he, "I want you to make a list of the
furniture shops, for they all sell crockery."
"And you can come up to-morrow evening, at seven, and
let me know how you are getting on. Don't overwork
yourself. A couple of hours at Day's Music Hall in
the evening would do you no harm after your labors."
He laughed as he spoke, and I saw with a thrill that
his second tooth upon the left-hand side had been very
badly stuffed with gold.
Sherlock Holmes rubbed his hands with delight, and I
stared with astonishment at our client.
"You may well look surprised, Dr. Watson; but it is
this way," said he: "When I was speaking to the other
chap in London, at the time that he laughed at my not
going to Mawson's, I happened to notice that his tooth
was stuffed in this very identical fashion. The glint
of the gold in each case caught my eye, you see. When
I put that with the voice and figure being the same,
and only those things altered which might be changed
by a razor or a wig, I could not doubt that it was the
same man. Of course you expect two brothers to be
alike, but not that they should have the same tooth
stuffed in the same way. He bowed me out, and I found
myself in the street, hardly knowing whether I was on
my head or my heels. Back I went to my hotel, put my
head in a basin of cold water, and tried to think it
out. Why had he sent me from London to Birmingham?
Why had he got there before me? And why had he
written a letter from himself to himself? It was
altogether too much for me, and I could make no sense
of it. And then suddenly it struck me that what was
dark to me might be very light to Mr. Sherlock Holmes.
I had just time to get up to town by the night train
to see him this morning, and to bring you both back
with me to Birmingham."
There was a pause after the stock-broker's clerk had
concluded his surprising experience. Then Sherlock
Holmes cocked his eye at me, leaning back on the
cushions with a pleased and yet critical face, like a
connoisseur who has just taken his first sip of a
"Rather fine, Watson, is it not?" said he. "There are
points in it which please me. I think that you will
agree with me that an interview with Mr. Arthur Harry
Pinner in the temporary offices of the Franco-Midland
Hardware Company, Limited, would be a rather
interesting experience for both of us."
"But how can we do it?" I asked.
"Oh, easily enough," said Hall Pycroft, cheerily.
"You are two friends of mine who are in want of a
billet, and what could be more natural than that I
should bring you both round to the managing director?"
"Quite so, of course," said Holmes. "I should like to
have a look at the gentleman, and see if I can make
anything of his little game. What qualities have you,
my friend, which would make your services so valuable?
or is it possible that--" He began biting his nails
and staring blankly out of the window, and we hardly
drew another word from him until we were in New
At seven o'clock that evening we were walking, the
three of us, down Corporation Street to the company's
"It is no use our being at all before our time," said
our client. "He only comes there to see me,
apparently, for the place is deserted up to the very
hour he names."
"That is suggestive," remarked Holmes.
"By Jove, I told you so!" cried the clerk. "That's he
walking ahead of us there."
He pointed to a smallish, dark, well-dressed man who
was bustling along the other side of the road. As we
watched him he looked across at a boy who was bawling
out the latest edition of the evening paper, and
running over among the cabs and busses, he bought one
from him. Then, clutching it in his hand, he vanished
through a door-way.
"There he goes!" cried Hall Pycroft. "These are the
company's offices into which he has gone. Come with
me, and I'll fix it up as easily as possible."
Following his lead, we ascended five stories, until we
found ourselves outside a half-opened door, at which
our client tapped. A voice within bade us enter, and
we entered a bare, unfurnished room such as Hall
Pycroft had described. At the single table sat the
man whom we had seen in the street, with his evening
paper spread out in front of him, and as he looked up
at us it seemed to me that I had never looked upon a
face which bore such marks of grief, and of something
beyond grief--of a horror such as comes to few men in
a lifetime. His brow glistened with perspiration, his
cheeks were of the dull, dead white of a fish's belly,
and his eyes were wild and staring. He looked at his
clerk as though he failed to recognize him, and I
could see by the astonishment depicted upon our
conductor's face that this was by no means the usual
appearance of his employer.
"You look ill, Mr. Pinner!" he exclaimed.
"Yes, I am not very well," answered the other, making
obvious efforts to pull himself together, and licking
his dry lips before he spoke. "Who are these
gentlemen whom you have brought with you?"
"One is Mr. Harris, of Bermondsey, and the other is
Mr. Price, of this town," said our clerk, glibly.
"They are friends of mine and gentlemen of experience,
but they have been out of a place for some little
time, and they hoped that perhaps you might find an
opening for them in the company's employment."
"Very possibly! Very possibly!" cried Mr. Pinner with
a ghastly smile. "Yes, I have no doubt that we shall
be able to do something for you. What is your
particular line, Mr. Harris?"
"I am an accountant," said Holmes.
"Ah yes, we shall want something of the sort. And
you, Mr. Price?"
"A clerk," said I.
"I have every hope that the company may accommodate
you. I will let you know about it as soon as we come
to any conclusion. And now I beg that you will go.
For God's sake leave me to myself!"
These last words were shot out of him, as though the
constraint which he was evidently setting upon himself
had suddenly and utterly burst asunder. Holmes and I
glanced at each other, and Hall Pycroft took a step
towards the table.
"You forget, Mr. Pinner, that I am here by appointment
to receive some directions from you," said he.
"Certainly, Mr. Pycroft, certainly," the other resumed
in a calmer tone. "You may wait here a moment; and
there is no reason why your friends should not wait
with you. I will be entirely at your service in three
minutes, if I might trespass upon your patience so
far." He rose with a very courteous air, and, bowing
to us, he passed out through a door at the farther end
of the room, which he closed behind him.
"What now?" whispered Holmes. "Is he giving us the
"Impossible," answered Pycroft.
"That door leads into an inner room."
"There is no exit?"
"Is it furnished?"
"It was empty yesterday."
"Then what on earth can he be doing? There is
something which I don't understand in his manner. If
ever a man was three parts mad with terror, that man's
name is Pinner. What can have put the shivers on
"He suspects that we are detectives," I suggested.
"That's it," cried Pycroft.
Holmes shook his head. "He did not turn pale. He was
pale when we entered the room," said he. "It is just
His words were interrupted by a sharp rat-tat from the
direction of the inner door.
"What the deuce is he knocking at his own door for?"
cried the clerk.
Again and much louder cam the rat-tat-tat. We all
gazed expectantly at the closed door. Glancing at
Holmes, I saw his face turn rigid, and he leaned
forward in intense excitement. Then suddenly came a
low guggling, gargling sound, and a brisk drumming
upon woodwork. Holmes sprang frantically across the
room and pushed at the door. It was fastened on the
inner side. Following his example, we threw ourselves
upon it with all our weight. One hinge snapped, then
the other, and down came the door with a crash.
Rushing over it, we found ourselves in the inner room.
It was empty.
But it was only for a moment that we were at fault.
At one corner, the corner nearest the room which we
had left, there was a second door. Holmes sprang to
it and pulled it open. A coat and waistcoat were
lying on the floor, and from a hook behind the door,
with his own braces round his neck, was hanging the
managing director of the Franco-Midland Hardware
Company. His knees were drawn up, his head hung at a
dreadful angle to his body, and the clatter of his
heels against the door made the noise which had broken
in upon our conversation. In an instant I had caught
him round the waist, and held him up while Holmes and
Pycroft untied the elastic bands which had disappeared
between the livid creases of skin. Then we carried
him into the other room, where he lay with a
clay-colored face, puffing his purple lips in and out
with every breath--a dreadful wreck of all that he had
been but five minutes before.
"What do you think of him, Watson?" asked Holmes.
I stooped over him and examined him. His pulse was
feeble and intermittent, but his breathing grew
longer, and there was a little shivering of his
eyelids, which showed a thin white slit of ball
"It has been touch and go with him," said I, "but
he'll live now. Just open that window, and hand me
the water carafe." I undid his collar, poured the
cold water over his face, and raised and sank his arms
until he drew a long, natural breath. "It's only a
question of time now," said I, as I turned away from
Holmes stood by the table, with his hands deep in his
trouser's pockets and his chin upon his breast.
"I suppose we ought to call the police in now," said
he. "And yet I confess that I'd like to give them a
complete case when they come."
"It's a blessed mystery to me," cried Pycroft,
scratching his head. "Whatever they wanted to bring
me all the way up here for, and then--"
"Pooh! All that is clear enough," said Holmes
impatiently. "It is this last sudden move."
"You understand the rest, then?"
"I think that it is fairly obvious. What do you say,
I shrugged my shoulders. "I must confess that I am
out of my depths," said I.
"Oh surely if you consider the events at first they
can only point to one conclusion."
"What do you make of them?"
"Well, the whole thing hinges upon two points. The
first is the making of Pycroft write a declaration by
which he entered the service of this preposterous
company. Do you not see how very suggestive that is?"
"I am afraid I miss the point."
"Well, why did they want him to do it? Not as a
business matter, for these arrangements are usually
verbal, and there was no earthly business reason why
this should be an exception. Don't you see, my young
friend, that they were very anxious to obtain a
specimen of your handwriting, and had no other way of
"Quite so. Why? When we answer that we have made
some progress with our little problem. Why? There
can be only one adequate reason. Some one wanted to
learn to imitate your writing, and had to procure a
specimen of it first. And now if we pass on to the
second point we find that each throws light upon the
other. That point is the request made by Pinner that
you should not resign your place, but should leave the
manager of this important business in the full
expectation that a Mr. Hall Pycroft, whom he had never
seen, was about to enter the office upon the Monday
"My God!" cried our client, "what a blind beetle I
"Now you see the point about the handwriting. Suppose
that some one turned up in your place who wrote a
completely different hand from that in which you had
applied for the vacancy, of course the game would have
been up. But in the interval the rogue had learned to
imitate you, and his position was therefore secure, as
I presume that nobody in the office had ever set eyes
"Not a soul," groaned Hall Pycroft.
"Very good. Of course it was of the utmost importance
to prevent you from thinking better of it, and also to
keep you from coming into contact with any one who
might tell you that your double was at work in
Mawson's office. Therefore they gave you a handsome
advance on your salary, and ran you off to the
Midlands, where they gave you enough work to do to
prevent your going to London, where you might have
burst their little game up. That is all plain
"But why should this man pretend to be his own
"Well, that is pretty clear also. There are evidently
only two of them in it. The other is impersonating you
at the office. This one acted as your engager, and
then found that he could not find you an employer
without admitting a third person into his plot. That
he was most unwilling to do. He changed his
appearance as far as he could, and trusted that the
likeness, which you could not fail to observe, would
be put down to a family resemblance. But for the
happy chance of the gold stuffing, your suspicions
would probably never have been aroused."
Hall Pycroft shook his clinched hands in the air.
"Good Lord!" he cried, "while I have been fooled in
this way, what has this other Hall Pycroft been doing
at Mawson's? What should we do, Mr. Holmes? Tell me
what to do."
"We must wire to Mawson's."
"They shut at twelve on Saturdays."
"Never mind. There may be some door-keeper or
"Ah yes, they keep a permanent guard there on account
of the value of the securities that they hold. I
remember hearing it talked of in the City."
"Very good; we shall wire to him, and see if all is
well, and if a clerk of your name is working there.
That is clear enough; but what is not so clear is why
at sight of us one of the rogues should instantly walk
out of the room and hang himself."
"The paper!" croaked a voice behind us. The man was
sitting up, blanched and ghastly, with returning
reason in his eyes, and hands which rubbed nervously
at the broad red band which still encircled his
"The paper! Of course!" yelled Holmes, in a paroxysm
of excitement. "Idiot that I was! I thought so must
of our visit that the paper never entered my head for
an instant. To be sure, the secret must be there."
He flattened it out upon the table, and a cry of
triumph burst from his lips. "Look at this, Watson,"
he cried. "It is a London paper, an early edition of
the Evening Standard. Here is what we want. Look at
the headlines: 'Crime in the City. Murder at Mawson &
Williams's. Gigantic attempted Robbery. Capture of
the Criminal.' Here, Watson, we are all equally
anxious to hear it, so kindly read it aloud to us."
It appeared from its position in the paper to have
been the one event of importance in town, and the
account of it ran in this way:
"A desperate attempt at robbery, culminating in the
death of one man and the capture of the criminal,
occurred this afternoon in the City. For some time
back Mawson & Williams, the famous financial house,
have been the guardians of securities which amount in
the aggregate to a sum of considerably over a million
sterling. So conscious was the manager of the
responsibility which devolved upon him in consequence
of the great interests at stake that safes of the very
latest construction have been employed, and an armed
watchman has been left day and night in the building.
It appears that last week a new clerk named Hall
Pycroft was engaged by the firm. This person appears
to have been none other that Beddington, the famous
forger and cracksman, who, with his brother, had only
recently emerged from a five years' spell of penal
servitude. By some mean, which are not yet clear, he
succeeded in wining, under a false name, this official
position in the office, which he utilized in order to
obtain moulding of various locks, and a thorough
knowledge of the position of the strong room and the
"It is customary at Mawson's for the clerks to leave
at midday on Saturday. Sergeant Tuson, of the City
Police, was somewhat surprised, therefore to see a
gentleman with a carpet bag come down the steps at
twenty minutes past one. His suspicions being
aroused, the sergeant followed the man, and with the
aid of Constable Pollack succeeded, after a most
desperate resistance, in arresting him. It was at
once clear that a daring and gigantic robbery had been
committed. Nearly a hundred thousand pounds' worth of
American railway bonds, with a large amount of scrip
in mines and other companies, was discovered in the
bag. On examining the premises the body of the
unfortunate watchman was found doubled up and thrust
into the largest of the safes, where it would not have
been discovered until Monday morning had it not been
for the prompt action of Sergeant Tuson. The man's
skull had been shattered by a blow from a poker
delivered from behind. There could be no doubt that
Beddington had obtained entrance by pretending that he
had left something behind him, and having murdered the
watchman, rapidly rifled the large safe, and then made
off with his booty. His brother, who usually works
with him, has not appeared in this job as far as can
at present be ascertained, although the police are
making energetic inquiries as to his whereabouts."
"Well, we may save the police some little trouble in
that direction," said Holmes, glancing at the haggard
figure huddled up by the window. "Human nature is a
strange mixture, Watson. You see that even a villain
and murderer can inspire such affection that his
brother turns to suicide when he learns that his neck
is forfeited. However, we have no choice as to our
action. The doctor and I will remain on guard, Mr.
Pycroft, if you will have the kindness to step out for
The "Gloria Scott"
I have some papers here," said my friend Sherlock
Holmes, as we sat one winter's night on either side of
the fire, "which I really think, Watson, that it would
be worth your while to glance over. These are the
documents in the extraordinary case of the Gloria
Scott, and this is the message which struck Justice of
the Peace Trevor dead with horror when he read it."
He had picked from a drawer a little tarnished
cylinder, and, undoing the tape, he handed me a short
note scrawled upon a half-sheet of slate gray-paper.
"The supply of game for London is going steadily up,"
it ran. "Head-keeper Hudson, we believe, had been now
told to receive all orders for fly-paper and for
preservation of your hen-pheasant's life."
As I glanced up from reading this enigmatical message,
I saw Holmes chuckling at the expression upon my face.
"You look a little bewildered," said he.
"I cannot see how such a message as this could inspire
horror. It seems to me to be rather grotesque than
"Very likely. Yet the fact remains that the reader,
who was a fine, robust old man, was knocked clean down
by it as if it had been the butt end of a pistol."
"You arouse my curiosity," said I. "But why did you
say just now that there were very particular reasons
why I should study this case?"
"Because it was the first in which I was ever
I had often endeavored to elicit from my companion
what had first turned is mind in the direction of
criminal research, but had never caught him before in
a communicative humor. Now he sat forward in this arm
chair and spread out the documents upon his knees.
Then he lit his pipe and sat for some time smoking and
turning them over.
"You never heard me talk of Victor Trevor?" he asked.
"He was the only friend I made during the two years I
was at college. I was never a very sociable fellow,
Watson, always rather fond of moping in my rooms and
working out my own little methods of thought, so that
I never mixed much with the men of my year. Bar
fencing and boxing I had few athletic tastes, and then
my line of study was quite distinct from that of the
other fellows, so that we had no points of contact at
all. Trevor was the only man I knew, and that only
through the accident of his bull terrier freezing on
to my ankle one morning as I went down to chapel.
"It was a prosaic way of forming a friendship, but it
was effective. I was laid by the heels for ten days,
but Trevor used to come in to inquire after me. At
first it was only a minute's chat, but soon his visits
lengthened, and before the end of the term we were
close friends. He was a hearty, full-blooded fellow,
full of spirits and energy, the very opposite to me in
most respects, but we had some subjects in common, and
it was a bond of union when I found that he was as
friendless as I. Finally, he invited me down to his
father's place at Donnithorpe, in Norfolk, and I
accepted his hospitality for a month of the long
"Old Trevor was evidently a man of some wealth and
consideration, a J.P., and a landed proprietor.
Donnithorpe is a little hamlet just to the north of
Langmere, in the country of the Broads. The house was
and old-fashioned, wide-spread, oak-beamed brick
building, with a fine lime-lined avenue leading up to
it. There was excellent wild-duck shooting in the
fens, remarkably good fishing, a small but select
library, taken over, as I understood, from a former
occupant, and a tolerable cook, so that he would be a
fastidious man who could not put in a pleasant month
"Trevor senior was a widower, and my friend his only
"There had been a daughter, I heard, but she had died
of diphtheria while on a visit to Birmingham. The
father interested me extremely. He was a man of
little culture, but with a considerable amount of rude
strength, both physically and mentally. He knew
hardly any books, but he had traveled far, had seen
much of the world. And had remembered all that he had
learned. In person he was a thick-set, burly man with
a shock of grizzled hair, a brown, weather-beaten
face, and blue eyes which were keen to the verge of
fierceness. Yet he had a reputation for kindness and
charity on the country-side, and was noted for the
leniency of his sentences from the bench.
"One evening, shortly after my arrival, we were
sitting over a glass of port after dinner, when young
Trevor began to talk about those habits of observation
and inference which I had already formed into a
system, although I had not yet appreciated the part
which they were to play in my life. The old man
evidently thought that his son was exaggerating in his
description of one or two trivial feats which I had
"'Come, now, Mr. Holmes,' said he, laughing
good-humoredly. 'I'm an excellent subject, if you can
deduce anything from me.'
"'I fear there is not very much,' I answered; 'I might
suggest that you have gone about in fear of some
personal attack with the last twelvemonth.'
"The laugh faded from his lips, and he stared at me in
"'Well, that's true enough,' said he. 'You know,
Victor,' turning to his son, 'when we broke up that
poaching gang they swore to knife us, and Sir Edward
Holly has actually been attacked. I've always been on
my guard since then, though I have no idea how you
"'You have a very handsome stick,' I answered. 'By
the inscription I observed that you had not had it
more than a year. But you have taken some pains to
bore the head of it and pour melted lead into the hole
so as to make it a formidable weapon. I argued that
you would not take such precautions unless you had
some danger to fear.'
"'Anything else?' he asked, smiling.
"'You have boxed a good deal in your youth.'
"'Right again. How did you know it? Is my nose
knocked a little out of the straight?'
"'No,' said I. 'It is your ears. They have the
peculiar flattening and thickening which marks the
"'You have done a good deal of digging by your
"'Made all my money at the gold fields.'
"'You have been in New Zealand.'
"'You have visited Japan.'
"'And you have been most intimately associated with
some one whose initials were J. A., and whom you
afterwards were eager to entirely forget.'
"Mr. Trevor stood slowly up, fixed his large blue eyes
upon me with a strange wild stare, and then pitched
forward, with his face among the nutshells which
strewed the cloth, in a dead faint.
"You can imagine, Watson, how shocked both his son and
I were. His attack did not last long, however, for
when we undid his collar, and sprinkled the water from
one of the finger-glasses over his face, he gave a
gasp or two and sat up.
"'Ah, boys,' said he, forcing a smile, 'I hope I
haven't frightened you. Strong as I look, there is a
weak place in my heart, and it does not take much to
knock me over. I don't know how you manage this, Mr.
Holmes, but it seems to me that all the detectives of
fact and of fancy would be children in your hands.
That's your line of life, sir, and you may take the
word of a man who has seen something of the world.'
"And that recommendation, with the exaggerated
estimate of my ability with which he prefaced it, was,
if you will believe me, Watson, the very first thing
which ever made me feel that a profession might be
made out of what had up to that time been the merest
hobby. At the moment, however, I was too much
concerned at the sudden illness of my host to think of
"'I hope that I have said nothing to pain you?' said
"'Well, you certainly touched upon rather a tender
point. Might I ask how you know, and how much you
know?' He spoke now in a half-jesting fashion, but a
look of terror still lurked at the back of his eyes.
"'It is simplicity itself,' said I. 'When you bared
your arm to draw that fish into the boat I saw that J.
A. Had been tattooed in the bend of the elbow. The
letters were still legible, but it was perfectly clear
from their blurred appearance, and from the staining
of the skin round them, that efforts had been made to
obliterate them. It was obvious, then, that those
initials had once been very familiar to you, and that
you had afterwards wished to forget them.'
"What an eye you have!" he cried, with a sigh of
relief. 'It is just as you say. But we won't talk of
it. Of all ghosts the ghosts of our old lovers are
the worst. Come into the billiard-room and have a
"From that day, amid all his cordiality, there was
always a touch of suspicion in Mr. Trevor's manner
towards me. Even his son remarked it. 'You've given
the governor such a turn,' said he, 'that he'll never
be sure again of what you know and what you don't
know.' He did not mean to show it, I am sure, but it
was so strongly in his mind that it peeped out at
every action. At last I became so convinced that I
was causing him uneasiness that I drew my visit to a
close. On the very day, however, before I left, and
incident occurred which proved in the sequel to be of
"We were sitting out upon the lawn on garden chairs,
the three of us, basking in the sun and admiring the
view across the Broads, when a maid came out to say
that there was a man at the door who wanted to see Mr.
"'What is his name?' asked my host.
"'He would not give any.'
"'What does he want, then?'
"'He says that you know him, and that he only wants a
"'Show him round here.' An instant afterwards there
appeared a little wizened fellow with a cringing
manner and a shambling style of walking. He wore an
open jacket, with a splotch of tar on the sleeve, a
red-and-black check shirt, dungaree trousers, and
heavy boots badly worn. His face was thin and brown
and crafty, with a perpetual smile upon it, which
showed an irregular line of yellow teeth, and his
crinkled hands were half closed in a way that is
distinctive of sailors. As he came slouching across
the lawn I heard Mr. Trevor make a sort of hiccoughing
noise in his throat, and jumping out of his chair, he
ran into the house. He was back in a moment, and I
smelt a strong reek of brandy as he passed me.
"'Well, my man,' said he. 'What can I do for you?'
"The sailor stood looking at him with puckered eyes,
and with the same loose-lipped smile upon his face.
"'You don't know me?' he asked.
"'Why, dear me, it is surely Hudson,' said Mr. Trevor
in a tone of surprise.
"'Hudson it is, sir,' said the seaman. 'Why, it's
thirty year and more since I saw you last. Here you
are in your house, and me still picking my salt meat
out of the harness cask.'
"'Tut, you will find that I have not forgotten old
times,' cried Mr. Trevor, and, walking towards the
sailor, he said something in a low voice. 'Go into
the kitchen,' he continued out loud, 'and you will get
food and drink. I have no doubt that I shall find you
"'Thank you, sir,' said the seaman, touching his
fore-lock. 'I'm just off a two-yearer in an
eight-knot tramp, short-handed at that, and I wants a
rest. I thought I'd get it either with Mr. Beddoes or
"'Ah!' cried Trevor. 'You know where Mr. Beddoes is?'
"'Bless you, sir, I know where all my old friends
are,' said the fellow with a sinister smile, and he
slouched off after the maid to the kitchen. Mr.
Trevor mumbled something to us about having been
shipmate with the man when he was going back to the
diggings, and then, leaving us on the lawn, he went
indoors. An hour later, when we entered the house, we
found him stretched dead drunk upon the dining-room
sofa. The whole incident left a most ugly impression
upon my mind, and I was not sorry next day to leave
Donnithorpe behind me, for I felt that my presence
must be a source of embarrassment to my friend.
"All this occurred during the first month of the long
vacation. I went up to my London rooms, where I spent
seven weeks working out a few experiments in organic
chemistry. On day, however, when the autumn was far
advanced and the vacation drawing to a close, I
received a telegram from my friend imploring me to
return to Donnithorpe, and saying that he was in great
need of my advice and assistance. Of course I dropped
everything and set out for the North once more.
"He met me with the dog-cart at the station, and I saw
at a glance that the last two months had been very
trying ones for him. He had grown thin and careworn,
and had lost the loud, cheery manner for which he had
"'The governor is dying,' were the first words he
"'Impossible!' I cried. 'What is the matter?'
"'Apoplexy. Nervous shock, He's been on the verge
all day. I doubt if we shall find him alive.'
"I was, as you may think, Watson, horrified at this
"'What has caused it?' I asked.
"'Ah, that is the point. Jump in and we can talk it
over while we drive. You remember that fellow who
came upon the evening before you left us?'
"'Do you know who it was that we let into the house
"'I have no idea.'
"'It was the devil, Holmes,' he cried.
"I stared at him in astonishment.
"'Yes, it was the devil himself. We have not had a
peaceful hour since--not one. The governor has never
held up his head from that evening, and now the life
has been crushed out of him and his heart broken, all
through this accursed Hudson.'
"'What power had he, then?'
"'Ah, that is what I would give so much to know. The
kindly, charitable, good old governor--how could he
have fallen into the clutches of such a ruffian! But
I am so glad that you have come, Holmes. I trust very
much to your judgment and discretion, and I know that
you will advise me for the best.'
"We were dashing along the smooth white country road,
with the long stretch of the Broads in front of us
glimmering in the red light of the setting sun. From
a grove upon our left I could already see the high
chimneys and the flag-staff which marked the squire's
"'My father made the fellow gardener,' said my
companion, 'and then, as that did not satisfy him, he
was promoted to be butler. The house seemed to be at
his mercy, and he wandered about and did what he chose
in it. The maids complained of his drunken habits and
his vile language. The dad raised their wages all
round to recompense them for the annoyance. The
fellow would take the boat and my father's best gun
and treat himself to little shooting trips. And all
this with such a sneering, leering, insolent face that
I would have knocked him down twenty times over if he
had been a man of my own age. I tell you, Holmes, I
have had to keep a tight hold upon myself all this
time; and now I am asking myself whether, if I had let
myself go a little more, I might not have been a wiser
"'Well, matters went from bad to worse with us, and
this animal Hudson became more and more intrusive,
until at last, on making some insolent reply to my
father in my presence one day, I took him by the
shoulders and turned him out of the room. He slunk
away with a livid face and two venomous eyes which
uttered more threats than his tongue could do. I
don't know what passed between the poor dad and him
after that, but the dad came to me next day and asked
me whether I would mind apologizing to Hudson. I
refused, as you can imagine, and asked my father how
he could allow such a wretch to take such liberties
with himself and his household.
"'"Ah, my boy," said he, "it is all very well to talk,
but you don't know how I am placed. But you shall
know, Victor. I'll see that you shall know, come what
may. You wouldn't believe harm of your poor old
father, would you, lad?" He was very much moved, and
shut himself up in the study all day, where I could
see through the window that he was writing busily.
"'That evening there came what seemed to me to be a
grand release, for Hudson told us that he was going to
leave us. He walked into the dining-room as we sat
after dinner, and announced his intention in the thick
voice of a half-drunken man.
"'"I've had enough of Norfolk," said he. "I'll run
down to Mr. Beddoes in Hampshire. He'll be as glad to
see me as you were, I dare say."
"'"You're not going away in any kind of spirit,
Hudson, I hope," said my father, with a tameness which
mad my blood boil.
"'"I've not had my 'pology," said he sulkily, glancing
in my direction.
"'"Victor, you will acknowledge that you have used
this worthy fellow rather roughly," said the dad,
turning to me.
"'"On the contrary, I think that we have both shown
extraordinary patience towards him," I answered.
"'"Oh, you do, do you?" he snarls. "Very good, mate.
We'll see about that!"
"'He slouched out of the room, and half an hour
afterwards left the house, leaving my father in a
state of pitiable nervousness. Night after night I
heard him pacing his room, and it was just as he was
recovering his confidence that the blow did at last
"'And how?' I asked eagerly.
"'In a most extraordinary fashion. A letter arrived
for my father yesterday evening, bearing the
Fordingbridge post-mark. My father read it, clapped
both his hands to his head, and began running round
the room in little circles like a man who has been
driven out of his senses. When I at last drew him
down on to the sofa, his mouth and eyelids were all
puckered on one side, and I saw that he had a stroke.
Dr. Fordham came over at once. We put him to bed; but
the paralysis has spread, he has shown no sign of
returning consciousness, and I think that we shall
hardly find him alive.'
"'You horrify me, Trevor!' I cried. 'What then could
have been in this letter to cause so dreadful a
"'Nothing. There lies the inexplicable part of it.
The message was absurd and trivial. Ah, my God, it is
as I feared!'
"As he spoke we came round the curve of the avenue,
and saw in the fading light that every blind in the
house had been drawn down. As we dashed up to the
door, my friend's face convulsed with grief, a
gentleman in black emerged from it.
"'When did it happen, doctor?' asked Trevor.
"'Almost immediately after you left.'
"'Did he recover consciousness?'
"'For an instant before the end.'
"'Any message for me.'
"'Only that the papers were in the back drawer of the
"My friend ascended with the doctor to the chamber of
death, while I remained in the study, turning the
whole matter over and over in my head, and feeling as
sombre as ever I had done in my life. What was the
past of this Trevor, pugilist, traveler, and
gold-digger, and how had he placed himself in the
power of this acid-faced seaman? Why, too, should he
faint at an allusion to the half-effaced initials upon
his arm, and die of fright when he had a letter from
Fordingham? Then I remembered that Fordingham was in
Hampshire, and that this Mr. Beddoes, whom the seaman
had gone to visit and presumably to blackmail, had
also been mentioned as living in Hampshire. The
letter, then, might either come from Hudson, the
seaman, saying that he had betrayed the guilty secret
which appeared to exist, or it might come from
Beddoes, warning an old confederate that such a
betrayal was imminent. So far it seemed clear enough.
But then how could this letter be trivial and
grotesque, as describe by the son? He must have
misread it. If so, it must have been one of those
ingenious secret codes which mean one thing while they
seem to mean another. I must see this letter. If
there were a hidden meaning in it, I was confident
that I could pluck it forth. For an hour I sat
pondering over it in the gloom, until at last a
weeping maid brought in a lamp, and close at her heels
came my friend Trevor, pale but composed, with these
very papers which lie upon my knee held in his grasp.
He sat down opposite to me, drew the lamp to the edge
of the table, and handed me a short note scribbled, as
you see, upon a single sheet of gray paper. "The
supply of game for London is going steadily up,' it
ran. 'Head-keeper Hudson, we believe, has been now
told to receive all orders for fly-paper and for
preservation of your hen-pheasant's life.'
"I dare say my face looked as bewildered as your did
just now when first I read this message. Then I
reread it very carefully. It was evidently as I had
thought, and some secret meaning must lie buried in
this strange combination of words. Or could it be
that there was a prearranged significance to such
phrases as 'fly-paper' and hen-pheasant'? Such a
meaning would be arbitrary and could not be deduced in
any way. And yet I was loath to believe that this was
the case, and the presence of the word Hudson seemed
to show that the subject of the message was as I had
guessed, and that it was from Beddoes rather than the
sailor. I tried it backwards, but the combination
'life pheasant's hen' was not encouraging. Then I
tried alternate words, but neither 'the of for' nor
'supply game London' promised to throw any light upon
"And then in an instant the key of the riddle was in
my hands, and I saw that every third word, beginning
with the first, would give a message which might well
drive old Trevor to despair.
"It was short and terse, the warning, as I now read it
to my companion:
"'The game is up. Hudson has told all. Fly for your
"Victor Trevor sank his face into his shaking hands,
'It must be that, I suppose,' said he. "This is worse
than death, for it means disgrace as well. But what
is the meaning of these "head-keepers" and
"'It means nothing to the message, but it might mean a
good deal to us if we had no other means of
discovering the sender. You see that he has begun by
writing "The...game...is," and so on. Afterwards he
had, to fulfill the prearranged cipher, to fill in any
two words in each space. He would naturally use the
first words which came to his mind, and if there were
so many which referred to sport among them, you may be
tolerably sure that he is either an ardent shot or
interested in breeding. Do you know anything of this
"'Why, now that you mention it,' said he, 'I remember
that my poor father used to have an invitation from
him to shoot over his preserves every autumn.'
"'Then it is undoubtedly from him that the note
comes,' said I. 'It only remains for us to find out
what this secret was which the sailor Hudson seems to
have held over the heads of these two wealthy and
"'Alas, Holmes, I fear that it is one of sin and
shame!' cried my friend. 'But from you I shall have
no secrets. Here is the statement which was drawn up
by my father when he knew that the danger from Hudson
had become imminent. I found it in the Japanese
cabinet, as he told the doctor. Take it and read it
to me, for I have neither the strength nor the courage
to do it myself.'
"These are the very papers, Watson, which he handed to
me, and I will read them to you, as I read them in the
old study that night to him. They are endorsed
outside, as you see, 'Some particulars of the voyage
of the bark Gloria Scott, from her leaving Falmouth on
the 8th October, 1855, to her destruction in N. Lat.
15 degrees 20', W. Long. 25 degrees 14' on Nov. 6th.'
It is in the form of a letter, and runs in this way:
"'My dear, dear son, now that approaching disgrace
begins to darken the closing years of my life, I can
write with all truth and honesty that it is not the
terror of the law, it is not the loss of my position
in the county, nor is it my fall in the eyes of all
who have known me, which cuts me to the heart; but it
is the thought that you should come to blush for
me--you who love me and who have seldom, I hope, had
reason to do other than respect me. But if the blow
falls which is forever hanging over me, then I should
wish you to read this, that you may know straight from
me how far I have been to blame. On the other hand,
if all should go well (which may kind God Almighty
grant!), then if by any chance this paper should be
still undestroyed and should fall into your hands, I
conjure you, by all you hold sacred, by the memory of
your dear mother, and by the love which had been
between us, to hurl it into the fire and to never give
one thought to it again.
"'If then your eye goes onto read this line, I know
that I shall already have been exposed and dragged
from my home, or as is more likely, for you know that
my heart is weak, by lying with my tongue sealed
forever in death. In either case the time for
suppression is past, and every word which I tell you
is the naked truth, and this I swear as I hope for
"'My name, dear lad, is not Trevor. I was James
Armitage in my younger days, and you can understand
now the shock that it was to me a few weeks ago when
your college friend addressed me in words which seemed
to imply that he had surprised my secret. As Armitage
it was that I entered a London banking-house, and as
Armitage I was convicted of breaking my country's
laws, and was sentenced to transportation. Do not
think very harshly of me, laddie. It was a debt of
honor, so called, which I had to pay, and I used money
which was not my own to do it, in the certainty that I
could replace it before there could be any possibility
of its being missed. But the most dreadful ill-luck
pursued me. The money which I had reckoned upon never
came to hand, and a premature examination of accounts
exposed my deficit. The case might have been dealt
leniently with, but the laws were more harshly
administered thirty years ago than now, and on my
twenty-third birthday I found myself chained as a
felon with thirty-seven other convicts in 'tween-decks
of the bark Gloria Scott, bound for Australia.
"'It was the year '55 when the Crimean war was at its
height, and the old convict ships had been largely used
as transports in the Black Sea. The government was
compelled, therefore, to use smaller and less suitable
vessels for sending out their prisoners. The Gloria
Scott had been in the Chinese tea-trade, but she was
an old-fashioned, heavy-bowed, broad-beamed craft, and
the new clippers had cut her out. She was a
five-hundred-ton boat; and besides her thirty-eight
jail-birds, she carried twenty-six of a crew, eighteen
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