The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes
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Sherlock Holmes closed his eyes and placed his elbows upon the arms of his
chair, with his finger-tips together. "The ideal reasoner," he remarked, "would,
when he had once been shown a single fact in all its bearings, deduce from it
not only all the chain of events which led up to it but also all the results
which would follow from it. As Cuvier could correctly describe a whole animal by
the contemplation of a single bone, so the observer who has thoroughly
understood one link in a series of incidents should be able to accurately state
all the other ones, both before and after. We have not yet grasped the results
which the reason alone can attain to. Problems may be solved in the study which
have baffled all those who have sought a solution by the aid of their senses. To
carry the art, however, to its highest pitch, it is necessary that the reasoner
should be able to utilize all the facts which have come to his knowledge; and
this in itself implies, as you will readily see, a possession of all knowledge,
which, even in these days of free education and encyclopaedias, is a somewhat
rare accomplishment. It is not so impossible, however, that a man should possess
all knowledge which is likely to be useful to him in his work, and this I have
endeavored in my case to do. If I remember rightly, you on one occasion, in the
early days of our friendship, defined my limits in a very precise fashion."
"Yes," I answered, laughing. "It was a singular document. Philosophy,
astronomy, and politics were marked at zero, I remember. Botany variable,
geology profound as regards the mud-stains from any region within fifty miles of
town, chemistry eccentric, anatomy unsystematic, sensational literature and
crime records unique, violin-player, boxer, swordsman, lawyer, and self-poisoner
by cocaine and tobacco. Those, I think, were the main points of my analysis."
Holmes grinned at the last item. "Well," he said, "I say now, as I said
then, that a man should keep his little brain-attic stocked with all the
furniture that he is likely to use, and the rest he can put away in the
lumber-room of his library, where he can get it if he wants it. Now, for such a
case as the one which has been submitted to us to-night, we need certainly to
muster all our resources. Kindly hand me down the letter K of the American
Encyclopaedia which stands upon the shelf beside you. Thank you. Now let us
consider the situation and see what may be deduced from it. In the first place,
we may start with a strong presumption that Colonel Openshaw had some very
strong reason for leaving America. Men at his time of life do not change all
their habits and exchange willingly the charming climate of Florida for the
lonely life of an English provincial town. His extreme love of solitude in
England suggests the idea that he was in fear of someone or something, so we may
assume as a working hypothesis that it was fear of someone or something which
drove him from America. As to what it was he feared, we can only deduce that by
considering the formidable letters which were received by himself and his
successors. Did you remark the postmarks of those letters?"
"The first was from Pondicherry, the second from Dundee, and the third from
"From East London. What do you deduce from that?"
"They are all seaports. That the writer was on board of a ship."
"Excellent. We have already a clew. There can be no doubt that the
probability--the strong probability--is that the writer was on board of a ship.
And now let us consider another point. In the case of Pondicherry, seven weeks
elapsed between the threat and its fulfillment, in Dundee it was only some three
or four days. Does that suggest anything?"
"A greater distance to travel."
"But the letter had also a greater distance to come."
"Then I do not see the point."
"There is at least a presumption that the vessel in which the man or men
are is a sailing-ship. It looks as if they always send their singular warning or
token before them when starting upon their mission. You see how quickly the deed
followed the sign when it came from Dundee. If they had come from Pondicherry in
a steamer they would have arrived almost as soon as their letter. But, as a
matter of fact, seven weeks elapsed. I think that those seven weeks represented
the difference between the mailboat which brought the letter and the sailing
vessel which brought the writer."
"It is possible."
"More than that. It is probable. And now you see the deadly urgency of this
new case, and why I urged young Openshaw to caution. The blow has always fallen
at the end of the time which it would take the senders to travel the distance.
But this one comes from London, and therefore we cannot count upon delay."
"Good God!" I cried. "What can it mean, this relentless persecution?"
"The papers which Openshaw carried are obviously of vital importance to the
person or persons in the sailing-ship. I think that it is quite clear that there
must be more than one of them. A single man could not have carried out two
deaths in such a way as to deceive a coroner's jury. There must have been
several in it, and they must have been men of resource and determination. Their
papers they mean to have, be the holder of them who it may. In this way you see
K. K. K. ceases to be the initials of an individual and becomes the badge of a
"But of what society?"
"Have you never--" said Sherlock Holmes, bending forward and sinking his
voice--"have you never heard of the Ku Klux Klan?"
"I never have." Holmes turned over the leaves of the book upon his knee.
"Here it is," said he presently:
"Ku Klux Klan. A name derived from the fanciful resemblance to the sound
produced by cocking a rifle. This terrible secret society was formed by some
ex-Confederate soldiers in the Southern states after the Civil War, and it
rapidly formed local branches in different parts of the country, notably in
Tennessee, Louisiana, the Carolinas, Georgia, and Florida. Its power was used
for political purposes, principally for the terrorizing of the negro voters and
the murdering and driving from the country of those who were opposed to its
views. Its outrages were usually preceded by a warning sent to the marked man in
some fantastic but generally recognized shape--a sprig of oak-leaves in some
parts, melon seeds or orange pips in others. On receiving this the victim might
either openly abjure his former ways, or might fly from the country. If he
braved the matter out, death would unfailingly come upon him, and usually in
some strange and unforeseen manner. So perfect was the organization of the
society, and so systematic its methods, that there is hardly a case upon record
where any man succeeded in braving it with impunity, or in which any of its
outrages were traced home to the perpetrators. For some years the organization
flourished in spite of the efforts of the United States government and of the
better classes of the community in the South. Eventually, in the year 1869, the
movement rather suddenly collapsed, although there have been sporadic outbreaks
of the same sort since that date.
"You will observe," said Holmes, laying down the volume, "that the sudden
breaking up of the society was coincident with the disappearance of Openshaw
from America with their papers. It may well have been cause and effect. It is no
wonder that he and his family have some of the more implacable spirits upon
their track. You can understand that this register and diary may implicate some
of the first men in the South, and that there may be many who will not sleep
easy at night until it is recovered."
"Then the page we have seen--"
"Is such as we might expect. It ran, if I remember right, 'sent the pips to
A, B, and C'--that is, sent the society's warning to them. Then there are
successive entries that A and B cleared, or left the country, and finally that C
was visited, with, I fear, a sinister result for C. Well, I think, Doctor, that
we may let some light into this dark place, and I believe that the only chance
young Openshaw has in the meantime is to do what I have told him. There is
nothing more to be said or to be done to-night, so hand me over my violin and
let us try to forget for half an hour the miserable weather and the still more
miserable ways of our fellow-men."
It had cleared in the morning, and the sun was shining with a subdued
brightness through the dim veil which hangs over the great city. Sherlock Holmes
was already at breakfast when I came down.
"You will excuse me for not waiting for you," said he; "I have, I foresee,
a very busy day before me in looking into this case of young Openshaw's."
"What steps will you take?" I asked.
"It will very much depend upon the results of my first inquiries. I may
have to go down to Horsham, after all."
"You will not go there first?"
"No, I shall commence with the City. Just ring the bell and the maid will
bring up your coffee."
As I waited, I lifted the unopened newspaper from the table and glanced my
eye over it. It rested upon a heading which sent a chill to my heart.
"Holmes," I cried, "you are too late."
"Ah!" said he, laying down his cup, "I feared as much. How was it done?" He
spoke calmly, but I could see that he was deeply moved.
"My eye caught the name of Openshaw, and the heading 'Tragedy Near Waterloo
Bridge.' Here is the account:
"Between nine and ten last night Police-Constable Cook, of the H Division,
on duty near Waterloo Bridge, heard a cry for help and a splash in the water.
The night, however, was extremely dark and stormy, so that, in spite of the help
of several passers-by, it was quite impossible to effect a rescue. The alarm,
however, was given, and, by the aid of the water-police, the body was eventually
recovered. It proved to be that of a young gentleman whose name, as it appears
from an envelope which was found in his pocket, was John Openshaw, and whose
residence is near Horsham. It is conjectured that he may have been hurrying down
to catch the last train from Waterloo Station, and that in his haste and the
extreme darkness he missed his path and walked over the edge of one of the small
landing-places for river steamboats. The body exhibited no traces of violence,
and there can be no doubt that the deceased had been the victim of an
unfortunate accident, which should have the effect of calling the attention of
the authorities to the condition of the riverside landing-stages."
We sat in silence for some minutes, Holmes more depressed and shaken than I
had ever seen him.
"That hurts my pride, Watson," he said at last. "It is a petty feeling, no
doubt, but it hurts my pride. It becomes a personal matter with me now, and, if
God sends me health, I shall set my hand upon this gang. That he should come to
me for help, and that I should send him away to his death--!" He sprang from his
chair and paced about the room in uncontrollable agitation, with a flush upon
his sallow cheeks and a nervous clasping and unclasping of his long thin hands.
"They must be cunning devils," he exclaimed at last. "How could they have
decoyed him down there? The Embankment is not on the direct line to the station.
The bridge, no doubt, was too crowded, even on such a night, for their purpose.
Well, Watson, we shall see who will win in the long run. I am going out now!"
"To the police?"
"No; I shall be my own police. When I have spun the web they may take the
flies, but not before."
All day I was engaged in my professional work, and it was late in the
evening before I returned to Baker Street. Sherlock Holmes had not come back
yet. It was nearly ten o'clock before he entered, looking pale and worn. He
walked up to the sideboard, and tearing a piece from the loaf he devoured it
voraciously, washing it down with a long draught of water.
"You are hungry," I remarked.
"Starving. It had escaped my memory. I have had nothing since breakfast."
"Not a bite. I had no time to think of it."
"And how have you succeeded?"
"You have a clew?"
"I have them in the hollow of my hand. Young Openshaw shall not long remain
unavenged. Why, Watson, let us put their own devilish trade-mark upon them. It
is well thought of!"
"What do you mean?"
He took an orange from the cupboard, and tearing it to pieces he squeezed
out the pips upon the table. Of these he took five and thrust them into an
envelope. On the inside of the flap he wrote "S. H. for J. 0." Then he sealed it
and addressed it to "Captain James Calhoun, Bark Lone Star, Savannah, Georgia."
"That will await him when he enters port," said he, chuckling. "It may give
him a sleepless night. He will find it as sure a precursor of his fate as
Openshaw did before him."
"And who is this Captain Calhoun?"
"The leader of the gang. I shall have the others, but he first."
"How did you trace it, then?"
He took a large sheet of paper from his pocket, all covered with dates and
"I have spent the whole day," said he, "over Lloyd's registers and files of
the old papers, following the future career of every vessel which touched at
Pondicherry in January and February in '83. There were thirty-six ships of fair
tonnage which were reported there during those months. Of these, one, the Lone
Star, instantly attracted my attention, since, although it was reported as
having cleared from London, the name is that which is given to one of the states
of the Union."
"Texas, I think."