The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes
Pages: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59 Next page
surgeon. There only remained the first mate, who was a bold and
active man. When he saw the convict approaching him with the
bloody knife in his hand he kicked off his bonds, which he had
somehow contrived to loosen, and rushing down the deck he
plunged into the after-hold. A dozen convicts, who descended
with their pistols in search of him, found him with a match-box
in his hand seated beside an open powder-barrel, which was one
of the hundred carried on board, and swearing that he would
blow all hands up if he were in any way molested. An instant
later the explosion occurred, though Hudson thought it was
caused by the misdirected bullet of one of the convicts rather
than the mate's match. Be the cause what it may, it was the
end of the Gloria Scott and of the rabble who held command of
" 'Such, in a few words, my dear boy, is the history of this
terrible business in which I was involved. Next day we were
picked up by the brig Hotspur, bound for Australia, whose
captain found no difficulty in believing that we were the survi-
vors of a passenger ship which had foundered. The transport ship
Gloria Scott was set down by the Admiralty as being lost at sea,
and no word has ever leaked out as to her true fate. After an
excellent voyage the Hotspur landed us at Sydney, where Evans
and I changed our names and made our way to the diggings,
where, among the crowds who were gathered from all nations,
we had no difficulty in losing our former identities. The rest I
need not relate. We prospered, we travelled, we came back as
rich colonials to England, and we bought country estates. For
more than twenty years we have led peaceful and useful lives,
and we hoped that our past was forever buried. Imagine, then,
my feelings when in the seaman who came to us I recognized
instantly the man who had been picked off the wreck. He had
tracked us down somehow and had set himself to live upon our
fears. You will understand now how it was that I strove to keep
the peace with him, and you will in some measure sympathize
with me in the fears which fill me, now that he has gone from
me to his other victim with threats upon his tongue.'
"Underneath is written in a hand so shaky as to be hardly
legible, 'Beddoes writes in cipher to say H. has told all. Sweet
Lord, have mercy on our souls!'
"That was the narrative which I read that night to young
Trevor, and I think, Watson, that under the circumstances it was
a dramatic one. The good fellow was heart-broken at it, and
went out to the Terai tea planting, where I hear that he is doing
well. As to the sailor and Beddoes, neither of them was ever
heard of again after that day on which the letter of warning was
written. They both disappeared utterly and completely. No com-
plaint had been lodged with the police, so that Beddoes had
mistaken a threat for a deed. Hudson had been seen lurking
about, and it was believed by the police that he had done away
with Beddoes and had fled. For myself I believe that the truth
was exactly the opposite. I think that it is most probable that
Beddoes, pushed to desperation and believing himself to have
been already betrayed, had revenged himself upon Hudson, and
had fled from the country with as much money as he could lay
his hands on. Those are the facts of the case, Doctor, and if they
are of any use to your collection, I am sure that they are very
heartily at your service."
The Musgrave Ritual
An anomaly which often struck me in the character of my friend
Sherlock Holmes was that, although in his methods of thought he
was the neatest and most methodical of mankind, and although
also he affected a certain quiet primness of dress, he was none
the less in his personal habits one of the most untidy men that
ever drove a fellow-lodger to distraction. Not that I am in the
least conventional in that respect myself. The rough-and-tumble
work in Afghanistan, coming on the top of natural Bohemianism
of disposition, has made me rather more lax than befits a medical
man. But with me there is a limit, and when I find a man who
keeps his cigars in the coal-scuttle, his tobacco in the toe end of
a Persian slipper, and his unanswered correspondence transfixed
by a jack-knife into the very centre of his wooden mantelpiece,
then I begin to give myself virtuous airs. I have always held,
too, that pistol practice should be distinctly an open-air pastime;
and when Holmes, in one of his queer humours, would sit in an
armchair with his hair-trigger and a hundred Boxer cartridges
and proceed to adorn the opposite wall with a patnotic V. R.
done in bullet-pocks, I felt strongly that neither the atmosphere
nor the appearance of our room was improved by it.
Our chambers were always full of chemicals and of criminal
relics which had a way of wandering into unlikely positions, and
of turning up in the butter-dish or in even less desirable places.
But his papers were my great crux. He had a horror of destroying
documents, especially those which were connected with his past
cases, and yet it was only once in every year or two that he
would muster energy to docket and arrange them; for, as I have
mentioned somewhere in these incoherent memoirs, tbe outbursts
of passionate energy when he performed the remarkable feats
with which his name is associated were followed by reactions of
lethargy during which he would lie about with his violin and his
books, hardly moving save from the sofa to the table. Thus
month after month his papers accumulated until every corner of
the room was stacked with bundles of manuscript which were on
no account to be burned, and which could not be put away save
by their owner. One winter's night, as we sat together by the
fire, I ventured to suggest to him that, as he had finished pasting
extracts into his commonplace book, he might employ the next
two hours in making our room a little more habitable. He could
not deny the justice of my request, so with a rather rueful face he
went off to his bedroom, from which he returned presently
pulling a large tin box behind him. This he placed in the middle
of the floor, and, squatting down upon a stool in front of it, he
threw back the lid. I could see that it was already a third full of
bundles of paper tied up with red tape into separate packages.
"There are cases enough here, Watson," said he, looking at
me with mischievous eyes. "I think that if you knew all that I
had in this box you would ask me to pull some out instead of
putting others in."
"These are the records of your early work, then?" I asked. "I
have often wished that I had notes of those cases."
"Yes, my boy, these were all done prematurely before my
biographer had come to glorify me." He lifted bundle after
bundle in a tender, caressing sort of way. "They are not all
successes, Watson," said he. "But there are some pretty little
problems among them. Here's the record of the Tarleton mur-
ders, and the case of Vamberry, the wine merchant, and the
adventure of the old Russian woman, and the singular affair of
the aluminum crutch, as well as a full account of Ricoletti of the
club-foot, and his abominable wife. And here -- ah. now. this
really is something a little recherche."
He dived his arm down to the bottom of the chest and brought
up a small wooden box with a sliding lid such as children's toys
are kept in. From within he produced a crumpled piece of paper,
an old-fashioned brass key, a peg of wood with a ball of string
attached to it, and three rusty old discs of metal.
"Well, my boy, what do you make of this lot?" he asked,
smiling at my expression.
"It is a curious collection."
"Very curious, and the story that hangs round it will strike
you as being more curious still."
"These relics have a history, then?"
"So much so that they are history."
"What do you mean by that?"
Sherlock Holmes picked them up one by one and laid them
along the edge of the table. Then he reseated himself in his chair
and looked them over with a gleam of satisfaction in his eyes.
"These," said he, "are all that I have left to remind me of the
adventure of the Musgrave Ritual."
I had heard him mention the case more than once, though I
had never been able to gather the details. "I should be so glad,"
said I, "if you would give me an account of it."
"And leave the litter as it is?" he cried mischievously. "Your
tidiness won't bear much strain, after all, Watson. But I should
be glad that you should add this case to your annals, for there are
points in it which make it quite unique in the criminal records of
this or, I believe, of any other country. A collection of my
trifling achievements would certainly be incomplete which con-
tained no account of this very singular business.
"You may remember how the affair of the Gloria Scott, and
my conversation with the unhappy man whose fate I told you of,
first turned my attention in the direction of the profession which
has become my life's work. You see me now when my name has
become known far and wide, and when I am generally recog-
nized both by the public and by the official force as being a final
court of appeal in doubtful cases. Even when you knew me first,
at the time of the affair which you have commemorated in 'A
Study in Scarlet,' I had already established a considerable, though
not a very lucrative, connection. You can hardly realize, then,
how difficult I found it at first, and how long I had to wait before
I succeeded in making any headway.
"When I first came up to London I had rooms in Montague
Street, just round the corner from the British Museum, and there
I waited, filling in my too abundant leisure time bv studying all
those branches of science which might make me more efficient.
Now and again cases came in my way, principally through the
introduction of old fellow-students, for during my last years at
the university there was a good deal of talk there about myself
and my methods. The third of these cases was that of the
Musgrave Ritual, and it is to the interest which was aroused by
that singular chain of events, and the large issues which proved
to be at stake, that I trace my first stride towards the position
which I now hold.
"Reginald Musgrave had been in the same college as myself,
and I had some slight acquaintance with him. He was not
generally popular among the undergraduates, though it always
seemed to me that what was set down as pride was really an
attempt to cover extreme natural diffidence. In appearance he
was a man of an exceedingly aristocratic type, thin, high-nosed,