Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes
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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 sips 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
soldiers, a captain, three mates, a doctor, a
chaplain, and four warders. Nearly a hundred souls
were in her, all told, when we set said from Falmouth.
"'The partitions between the cells of the convicts,
instead of being of thick oak, as is usual in
convict-ships, were quite thin and frail. The man
next to me, upon the aft side, was one whom I had
particularly noticed when we were led down the quay.
He was a young man with a clear, hairless face, a
long, thin nose, and rather nut-cracker jaws. He
carried his head very jauntily in the air, had a
swaggering style of walking, and was, above all else,
remarkable for his extraordinary height. I don't
think any of our heads would have come up to his
shoulder, and I am sure that he could not have
measured less than six and a half feet. It was
strange among so many sad and weary faces to see one
which was full of energy and resolution. The sight of
it was to me like a fire in a snow-storm. I was glad,
then, to find that he was my neighbor, and gladder
still when, in the dead of the night, I heard a
whisper close to my ear, and found that he had managed
to cut an opening in the board which separated us.
"'"Hullo, chummy!" said he, "what's your name, and
what are you here for?"
"'I answered him, and asked in turn who I was talking
"'"I'm Jack Prendergast," said he, "and by God! You'll
learn to bless my name before you've done with me."
"'I remembered hearing of his case, for it was one
which had made an immense sensation throughout the
country some time before my own arrest. He was a man
of good family and of great ability, but on incurably
vicious habits, who had be an ingenious system of
fraud obtained huge sums of money from the leading
"'"Ha, ha! You remember my case!" said he proudly.
"'"Very well, indeed."
"'"Then maybe you remember something queer about it?"
"'"What was that, then?"
"'"I'd had nearly a quarter of a million, hadn't I?"
"'"So it was said."
"'"But none was recovered, eh?"
"'"Well, where d'ye suppose the balance is?" he asked.
"'"I have no idea," said I.
"'"Right between my finger and thumb," he cried. "By
God! I've go more pounds to my name than you've hairs
on your head. And if you've money, my son, and know
how to handle it and spread it, you can do anything.
Now, you don't think it likely that a man who could do
anything is going to wear his breeches out sitting in
the stinking hold of a rat-gutted, beetle-ridden,
mouldy old coffin of a Chin China coaster. No, sir,
such a man will look after himself and will look after
his chums. You may lay to that! You hold on to him,
and you may kiss the book that he'll haul you
"'That was his style of talk, and at first I thought
it meant nothing; but after a while, when he had
tested me and sworn me in with all possible solemnity,
he let me understand that there really was a plot to
gain command of the vessel. A dozen of the prisoners
had hatched it before they came aboard, Prendergast
was the leader, and his money was the motive power.
"'"I'd a partner," said he, "a rare good man, as true
as a stock to a barrel. He's got the dibbs, he has,
and where do you think he is at this moment? Why,
he's the chaplain of this ship--the chaplain, no less!
He came aboard with a black coat, and his papers
right, and money enough in his box to buy the thing
right up from keel to main-truck. The crew are his,
body and soul. He could buy 'em at so much a gross
with a cash discount, and he did it before ever they
signed on. He's got two of the warders and Mereer,
the second mate, and he'd get the captain himself, if
he thought him worth it."
"'"What are we to do, then?" I asked.
"'"What do you think?" said he. "We'll make the coats
of some of these soldiers redder than ever the tailor
"'"But they are armed," said I.
"'"And so shall we be, my boy. There's a brace of
pistols for every mother's son of us, and if we can't
carry this ship, with the crew at our back, it's time
we were all sent to a young misses' boarding-school.
You speak to your mate upon the left to-night, and see
if he is to be trusted."
"'I did so, and found my other neighbor to be a young
fellow in much the same position as myself, whose
crime had been forgery. His name was Evans, but he
afterwards changed it, like myself, and his is now a
rich and prosperous man in the south of England. He
was ready enough to join the conspiracy, as the only
means of saving ourselves, and before we had crossed
the Bay there were only two of the prisoners who were
not in the secret. One of these was of weak mind, and
we did not dare to trust him, and the other was
suffering from jaundice, and could not be of any use
"'From the beginning there was really nothing to
prevent us from taking possession of the ship. The
crew were a set of ruffians, specially picked for the
job. The sham chaplain came into our cells to exhort
us, carrying a black bag, supposed to be full of
tracts, and so often did he come that by the third day
we had each stowed away at the foot of our beds a
file, a brace of pistols, a pound of powder, and
twenty slugs. Two of the warders were agents of
Prendergast, and the second mate was his right-hand
man. The captain, the two mates, two warders
Lieutenant Martin, his eighteen soldiers, and the
doctor were all that we had against us. Yet, safe as
it was, we determined to neglect no precaution, and to
make our attack suddenly by night. It came, however,
more quickly than we expected, and in this way.
"'One evening, about the third week after our start,