Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes
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"'"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 you 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