The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes
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ran]. Head-keeper Hudson, we believe, has been now told to
receive all orders for fly-paper and for preservation of your
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 otherwise."
"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 engaged."
I had often endeavoured to elicit from my companion what
had first turned his mind in the direction of criminal research,
but had never caught him before in a communicative humour.
Now he sat forward in his armchair and spread out the docu-
ments 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, and 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 vacation.
"Old Trevor was evidently a man of some wealth and consid-
eration, 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 an old-fashioned, widespread, 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 under-
stood, 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 son.
"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 consid-
erable amount of rude strength, both physically and mentally. He
knew hardly any books, but he had travelled 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 countryside, 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 performed.
" 'Come, now, Mr. Holmes,' said he, laughing good-
humouredly. 'I'm an excellent subject, if you can deduce any-
thing 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 within
the last twelvemonth.'
"The laugh faded from his lips, and he stared at me in great
" '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 know it.'
" '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 flatten-
ing and thickening which marks the boxing man.'
" 'Anything else?'
" 'You have done a good deal of digging by your callosities.'
" 'Made all my money at the gold fields.'
" 'You have been in New Zealand.'
" 'Right again.'
" 'You have visited Japan.'
" 'Quite true.'
" '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
"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 anything
" 'I hope that I have said nothing to pain you?' said I.
" '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 stain-
ing 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
" '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 loves are the worst. Come into the billiard-room and
have a quiet cigar.'
"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, an 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. Trevor.