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When I glance over my notes and records of the Sherlock Holmes cases between the years
'82 and '90, I am faced by so many which present strange and interesting features
that it is no easy matter to know which to choose and which to leave.
Some, however, have already gained publicity through the papers, and others
have not offered a field for those peculiar qualities which my friend possessed in so
high a degree, and which it is the object of these papers to illustrate.
Some, too, have baffled his analytical skill, and would be, as narratives,
beginnings without an ending, while others have been but partially cleared up, and
have their explanations founded rather upon
conjecture and surmise than on that absolute logical proof which was so dear to
There is, however, one of these last which was so remarkable in its details and so
startling in its results that I am tempted to give some account of it in spite of the
fact that there are points in connection
with it which never have been, and probably never will be, entirely cleared up.
The year '87 furnished us with a long series of cases of greater or less
interest, of which I retain the records.
Among my headings under this one twelve months I find an account of the adventure
of the Paradol Chamber, of the Amateur Mendicant Society, who held a luxurious
club in the lower vault of a furniture
warehouse, of the facts connected with the loss of the British barque "Sophy
Anderson", of the singular adventures of the Grice Patersons in the island of Uffa,
and finally of the Camberwell poisoning case.
In the latter, as may be remembered, Sherlock Holmes was able, by winding up the
dead man's watch, to prove that it had been wound up two hours before, and that
therefore the deceased had gone to bed
within that time--a deduction which was of the greatest importance in clearing up the
All these I may sketch out at some future date, but none of them present such
singular features as the strange train of circumstances which I have now taken up my
pen to describe.
It was in the latter days of September, and the equinoctial gales had set in with
exceptional violence.
All day the wind had screamed and the rain had beaten against the windows, so that
even here in the heart of great, hand-made London we were forced to raise our minds
for the instant from the routine of life
and to recognise the presence of those great elemental forces which shriek at
mankind through the bars of his civilisation, like untamed beasts in a
As evening drew in, the storm grew higher and louder, and the wind cried and sobbed
like a child in the chimney.
Sherlock Holmes sat moodily at one side of the fireplace cross-indexing his records of
crime, while I at the other was deep in one of Clark Russell's fine sea-stories until
the howl of the gale from without seemed to
blend with the text, and the splash of the rain to lengthen out into the long swash of
the sea waves.
My wife was on a visit to her mother's, and for a few days I was a dweller once more in
my old quarters at Baker Street. "Why," said I, glancing up at my companion,
"that was surely the bell.
Who could come to-night? Some friend of yours, perhaps?"
"Except yourself I have none," he answered. "I do not encourage visitors."
"A client, then?"
"If so, it is a serious case. Nothing less would bring a man out on such
a day and at such an hour. But I take it that it is more likely to be
some crony of the landlady's."
Sherlock Holmes was wrong in his conjecture, however, for there came a step
in the passage and a tapping at the door.
He stretched out his long arm to turn the lamp away from himself and towards the
vacant chair upon which a newcomer must sit.
"Come in!" said he.
The man who entered was young, some two- and-twenty at the outside, well-groomed and
trimly clad, with something of refinement and delicacy in his bearing.
The streaming umbrella which he held in his hand, and his long shining waterproof told
of the fierce weather through which he had come.
He looked about him anxiously in the glare of the lamp, and I could see that his face
was pale and his eyes heavy, like those of a man who is weighed down with some great
"I owe you an apology," he said, raising his golden pince-nez to his eyes.
"I trust that I am not intruding. I fear that I have brought some traces of
the storm and rain into your snug chamber."
"Give me your coat and umbrella," said Holmes.
"They may rest here on the hook and will be dry presently.
You have come up from the south-west, I see."
"Yes, from Horsham." "That clay and chalk mixture which I see
upon your toe caps is quite distinctive."
"I have come for advice." "That is easily got."
"And help." "That is not always so easy."
"I have heard of you, Mr. Holmes.
I heard from Major Prendergast how you saved him in the Tankerville Club scandal."
"Ah, of course. He was wrongfully accused of cheating at
"He said that you could solve anything." "He said too much."
"That you are never beaten." "I have been beaten four times--three times
by men, and once by a woman."
"But what is that compared with the number of your successes?"
"It is true that I have been generally successful."
"Then you may be so with me."
"I beg that you will draw your chair up to the fire and favour me with some details as
to your case." "It is no ordinary one."
"None of those which come to me are.
I am the last court of appeal."
"And yet I question, sir, whether, in all your experience, you have ever listened to
a more mysterious and inexplicable chain of events than those which have happened in my
own family."
"You fill me with interest," said Holmes. "Pray give us the essential facts from the
commencement, and I can afterwards question you as to those details which seem to me to
be most important."
The young man pulled his chair up and pushed his wet feet out towards the blaze.
"My name," said he, "is John Openshaw, but my own affairs have, as far as I can
understand, little to do with this awful business.
It is a hereditary matter; so in order to give you an idea of the facts, I must go
back to the commencement of the affair. "You must know that my grandfather had two
sons--my uncle Elias and my father Joseph.
My father had a small factory at Coventry, which he enlarged at the time of the
invention of bicycling.
He was a patentee of the Openshaw unbreakable tire, and his business met with
such success that he was able to sell it and to retire upon a handsome competence.
"My uncle Elias emigrated to America when he was a young man and became a planter in
Florida, where he was reported to have done very well.
At the time of the war he fought in Jackson's army, and afterwards under Hood,
where he rose to be a colonel.
When Lee laid down his arms my uncle returned to his plantation, where he
remained for three or four years.
About 1869 or 1870 he came back to Europe and took a small estate in Sussex, near
He had made a very considerable fortune in the States, and his reason for leaving them
was his aversion to the negroes, and his dislike of the Republican policy in
extending the franchise to them.
He was a singular man, fierce and quick- tempered, very foul-mouthed when he was
angry, and of a most retiring disposition.
During all the years that he lived at Horsham, I doubt if ever he set foot in the
He had a garden and two or three fields round his house, and there he would take
his exercise, though very often for weeks on end he would never leave his room.
He drank a great deal of brandy and smoked very heavily, but he would see no society
and did not want any friends, not even his own brother.
"He didn't mind me; in fact, he took a fancy to me, for at the time when he saw me
first I was a youngster of twelve or so. This would be in the year 1878, after he
had been eight or nine years in England.
He begged my father to let me live with him and he was very kind to me in his way.
When he was sober he used to be fond of playing backgammon and draughts with me,
and he would make me his representative both with the servants and with the
tradespeople, so that by the time that I
was sixteen I was quite master of the house.
I kept all the keys and could go where I liked and do what I liked, so long as I did
not disturb him in his privacy.
There was one singular exception, however, for he had a single room, a lumber-room up
among the attics, which was invariably locked, and which he would never permit
either me or anyone else to enter.
With a boy's curiosity I have peeped through the keyhole, but I was never able
to see more than such a collection of old trunks and bundles as would be expected in
such a room.
"One day--it was in March, 1883--a letter with a foreign stamp lay upon the table in
front of the colonel's plate.
It was not a common thing for him to receive letters, for his bills were all
paid in ready money, and he had no friends of any sort.
'From India!' said he as he took it up, 'Pondicherry postmark!
What can this be?'
Opening it hurriedly, out there jumped five little dried orange pips, which pattered
down upon his plate.
I began to laugh at this, but the laugh was struck from my lips at the sight of his
His lip had fallen, his eyes were protruding, his skin the colour of putty,
and he glared at the envelope which he still held in his trembling hand, 'K. K.
K.!' he shrieked, and then, 'My God, my God, my sins have overtaken me!'
"'What is it, uncle?' I cried.
"'Death,' said he, and rising from the table he retired to his room, leaving me
palpitating with horror.
I took up the envelope and saw scrawled in red ink upon the inner flap, just above the
gum, the letter K three times repeated. There was nothing else save the five dried
What could be the reason of his overpowering terror?
I left the breakfast-table, and as I ascended the stair I met him coming down
with an old rusty key, which must have belonged to the attic, in one hand, and a
small brass box, like a cashbox, in the other.
"'They may do what they like, but I'll checkmate them still,' said he with an
'Tell Mary that I shall want a fire in my room to-day, and send down to Fordham, the
Horsham lawyer.' "I did as he ordered, and when the lawyer
arrived I was asked to step up to the room.
The fire was burning brightly, and in the grate there was a mass of black, fluffy
ashes, as of burned paper, while the brass box stood open and empty beside it.
As I glanced at the box I noticed, with a start, that upon the lid was printed the
treble K which I had read in the morning upon the envelope.
"'I wish you, John,' said my uncle, 'to witness my will.
I leave my estate, with all its advantages and all its disadvantages, to my brother,
your father, whence it will, no doubt, descend to you.
If you can enjoy it in peace, well and good!
If you find you cannot, take my advice, my boy, and leave it to your deadliest enemy.
I am sorry to give you such a two-edged thing, but I can't say what turn things are
going to take. Kindly sign the paper where Mr. Fordham
shows you.'
"I signed the paper as directed, and the lawyer took it away with him.
The singular incident made, as you may think, the deepest impression upon me, and
I pondered over it and turned it every way in my mind without being able to make
anything of it.
Yet I could not shake off the vague feeling of dread which it left behind, though the
sensation grew less keen as the weeks passed and nothing happened to disturb the
usual routine of our lives.
I could see a change in my uncle, however. He drank more than ever, and he was less
inclined for any sort of society.
Most of his time he would spend in his room, with the door locked upon the inside,
but sometimes he would emerge in a sort of drunken frenzy and would burst out of the
house and tear about the garden with a
revolver in his hand, screaming out that he was afraid of no man, and that he was not
to be cooped up, like a sheep in a pen, by man or devil.
When these hot fits were over, however, he would rush tumultuously in at the door and
lock and bar it behind him, like a man who can brazen it out no longer against the
terror which lies at the roots of his soul.
At such times I have seen his face, even on a cold day, glisten with moisture, as
though it were new raised from a basin.
"Well, to come to an end of the matter, Mr. Holmes, and not to abuse your patience,
there came a night when he made one of those drunken sallies from which he never
came back.
We found him, when we went to search for him, face downward in a little green-
scummed pool, which lay at the foot of the garden.
There was no sign of any violence, and the water was but two feet deep, so that the
jury, having regard to his known eccentricity, brought in a verdict of
But I, who knew how he winced from the very thought of death, had much ado to persuade
myself that he had gone out of his way to meet it.
The matter passed, however, and my father entered into possession of the estate, and
of some 14,000 pounds, which lay to his credit at the bank."
"One moment," Holmes interposed, "your statement is, I foresee, one of the most
remarkable to which I have ever listened.
Let me have the date of the reception by your uncle of the letter, and the date of
his supposed suicide." "The letter arrived on March 10, 1883.
His death was seven weeks later, upon the night of May 2nd."
"Thank you. Pray proceed."
"When my father took over the Horsham property, he, at my request, made a careful
examination of the attic, which had been always locked up.
We found the brass box there, although its contents had been destroyed.
On the inside of the cover was a paper label, with the initials of K. K. K.
repeated upon it, and 'Letters, memoranda, receipts, and a register' written beneath.
These, we presume, indicated the nature of the papers which had been destroyed by
Colonel Openshaw.
For the rest, there was nothing of much importance in the attic save a great many
scattered papers and note-books bearing upon my uncle's life in America.
Some of them were of the war time and showed that he had done his duty well and
had borne the repute of a brave soldier.
Others were of a date during the reconstruction of the Southern states, and
were mostly concerned with politics, for he had evidently taken a strong part in
opposing the carpet-bag politicians who had been sent down from the North.
"Well, it was the beginning of '84 when my father came to live at Horsham, and all
went as well as possible with us until the January of '85.
On the fourth day after the new year I heard my father give a sharp cry of
surprise as we sat together at the breakfast-table.
There he was, sitting with a newly opened envelope in one hand and five dried orange
pips in the outstretched palm of the other one.
He had always laughed at what he called my cock-and-bull story about the colonel, but
he looked very scared and puzzled now that the same thing had come upon himself.
"'Why, what on earth does this mean, John?' he stammered.
"My heart had turned to lead. 'It is K. K. K.,' said I.
"He looked inside the envelope.
'So it is,' he cried. 'Here are the very letters.
But what is this written above them?' "'Put the papers on the sundial,' I read,
peeping over his shoulder.
"'What papers? What sundial?' he asked.
"'The sundial in the garden. There is no other,' said I; 'but the papers
must be those that are destroyed.'
"'Pooh!' said he, gripping hard at his courage.
'We are in a civilised land here, and we can't have tomfoolery of this kind.
Where does the thing come from?'
"'From Dundee,' I answered, glancing at the postmark.
"'Some preposterous practical joke,' said he.
'What have I to do with sundials and papers?
I shall take no notice of such nonsense.' "'I should certainly speak to the police,'
I said.
"'And be laughed at for my pains. Nothing of the sort.'
"'Then let me do so?' "'No, I forbid you.
I won't have a fuss made about such nonsense.'
"It was in vain to argue with him, for he was a very obstinate man.
I went about, however, with a heart which was full of forebodings.
"On the third day after the coming of the letter my father went from home to visit an
old friend of his, Major Freebody, who is in command of one of the forts upon
Portsdown Hill.
I was glad that he should go, for it seemed to me that he was farther from danger when
he was away from home. In that, however, I was in error.
Upon the second day of his absence I received a telegram from the major,
imploring me to come at once.
My father had fallen over one of the deep chalk-pits which abound in the
neighbourhood, and was lying senseless, with a shattered skull.
I hurried to him, but he passed away without having ever recovered his
He had, as it appears, been returning from Fareham in the twilight, and as the country
was unknown to him, and the chalk-pit unfenced, the jury had no hesitation in
bringing in a verdict of 'death from accidental causes.'
Carefully as I examined every fact connected with his death, I was unable to
find anything which could suggest the idea of murder.
There were no signs of violence, no footmarks, no robbery, no record of
strangers having been seen upon the roads.
And yet I need not tell you that my mind was far from at ease, and that I was well-
nigh certain that some foul plot had been woven round him.
"In this sinister way I came into my inheritance.
You will ask me why I did not dispose of it?
I answer, because I was well convinced that our troubles were in some way dependent
upon an incident in my uncle's life, and that the danger would be as pressing in one
house as in another.
"It was in January, '85, that my poor father met his end, and two years and eight
months have elapsed since then.
During that time I have lived happily at Horsham, and I had begun to hope that this
curse had passed away from the family, and that it had ended with the last generation.
I had begun to take comfort too soon, however; yesterday morning the blow fell in
the very shape in which it had come upon my father."
The young man took from his waistcoat a crumpled envelope, and turning to the table
he shook out upon it five little dried orange pips.
"This is the envelope," he continued.
"The postmark is London--eastern division. Within are the very words which were upon
my father's last message: 'K. K. K.'; and then 'Put the papers on the sundial.'"
"What have you done?" asked Holmes.
"Nothing." "Nothing?"
"To tell the truth"--he sank his face into his thin, white hands--"I have felt
I have felt like one of those poor rabbits when the snake is writhing towards it.
I seem to be in the grasp of some resistless, inexorable evil, which no
foresight and no precautions can guard against."
"Tut! tut!" cried Sherlock Holmes.
"You must act, man, or you are lost. Nothing but energy can save you.
This is no time for despair." "I have seen the police."
"But they listened to my story with a smile.
I am convinced that the inspector has formed the opinion that the letters are all
practical jokes, and that the deaths of my relations were really accidents, as the
jury stated, and were not to be connected with the warnings."
Holmes shook his clenched hands in the air. "Incredible imbecility!" he cried.
"They have, however, allowed me a policeman, who may remain in the house with
me." "Has he come with you to-night?"
"No. His orders were to stay in the house."
Again Holmes raved in the air. "Why did you come to me," he cried, "and,
above all, why did you not come at once?" "I did not know.
It was only to-day that I spoke to Major Prendergast about my troubles and was
advised by him to come to you." "It is really two days since you had the
We should have acted before this. You have no further evidence, I suppose,
than that which you have placed before us-- no suggestive detail which might help us?"
"There is one thing," said John Openshaw.
He rummaged in his coat pocket, and, drawing out a piece of discoloured, blue-
tinted paper, he laid it out upon the table.
"I have some remembrance," said he, "that on the day when my uncle burned the papers
I observed that the small, unburned margins which lay amid the ashes were of this
particular colour.
I found this single sheet upon the floor of his room, and I am inclined to think that
it may be one of the papers which has, perhaps, fluttered out from among the
others, and in that way has escaped destruction.
Beyond the mention of pips, I do not see that it helps us much.
I think myself that it is a page from some private diary.
The writing is undoubtedly my uncle's."
Holmes moved the lamp, and we both bent over the sheet of paper, which showed by
its ragged edge that it had indeed been torn from a book.
It was headed, "March, 1869," and beneath were the following enigmatical notices:
"4th. Hudson came.
Same old platform.
"7th. Set the pips on McCauley, Paramore, and
John Swain, of St. Augustine. "9th.
McCauley cleared.
"10th. John Swain cleared.
"12th. Visited Paramore.
All well."
"Thank you!" said Holmes, folding up the paper and returning it to our visitor.
"And now you must on no account lose another instant.
We cannot spare time even to discuss what you have told me.
You must get home instantly and act." "What shall I do?"
"There is but one thing to do.
It must be done at once. You must put this piece of paper which you
have shown us into the brass box which you have described.
You must also put in a note to say that all the other papers were burned by your uncle,
and that this is the only one which remains.
You must assert that in such words as will carry conviction with them.
Having done this, you must at once put the box out upon the sundial, as directed.
Do you understand?"
"Entirely." "Do not think of revenge, or anything of
the sort, at present.
I think that we may gain that by means of the law; but we have our web to weave,
while theirs is already woven. The first consideration is to remove the
pressing danger which threatens you.
The second is to clear up the mystery and to punish the guilty parties."
"I thank you," said the young man, rising and pulling on his overcoat.
"You have given me fresh life and hope.
I shall certainly do as you advise." "Do not lose an instant.
And, above all, take care of yourself in the meanwhile, for I do not think that
there can be a doubt that you are threatened by a very real and imminent
How do you go back?" "By train from Waterloo."
"It is not yet nine. The streets will be crowded, so I trust
that you may be in safety.
And yet you cannot guard yourself too closely."
"I am armed." "That is well.
To-morrow I shall set to work upon your case."
"I shall see you at Horsham, then?" "No, your secret lies in London.
It is there that I shall seek it."
"Then I shall call upon you in a day, or in two days, with news as to the box and the
papers. I shall take your advice in every
He shook hands with us and took his leave. Outside the wind still screamed and the
rain splashed and pattered against the windows.
This strange, wild story seemed to have come to us from amid the mad elements--
blown in upon us like a sheet of sea-weed in a gale--and now to have been reabsorbed
by them once more.
Sherlock Holmes sat for some time in silence, with his head sunk forward and his
eyes bent upon the red glow of the fire.
Then he lit his pipe, and leaning back in his chair he watched the blue smoke-rings
as they chased each other up to the ceiling.
"I think, Watson," he remarked at last, "that of all our cases we have had none
more fantastic than this." "Save, perhaps, the Sign of Four."
"Well, yes.
Save, perhaps, that. And yet this John Openshaw seems to me to
be walking amid even greater perils than did the Sholtos."
"But have you," I asked, "formed any definite conception as to what these perils
are?" "There can be no question as to their
nature," he answered.
"Then what are they? Who is this K. K. K., and why does he
pursue this unhappy family?"
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 utilise 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 endeavoured 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
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 London."
"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 clue.
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
fulfilment, 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
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
I think that those seven weeks represented the difference between the mail-boat 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
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 society." "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 terrorising 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 recognised 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 organisation 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 organisation 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
"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
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." "Nothing?"
"Not a bite.
I had no time to think of it." "And how have you succeeded?"
"Well." "You have a clue?"
"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. O."
Then he sealed it and addressed it to "Captain James Calhoun, Barque '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 names.
"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
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." "I was not and am not sure which; but I
knew that the ship must have an American origin."
"What then?"
"I searched the Dundee records, and when I found that the barque 'Lone Star' was there
in January, '85, my suspicion became a certainty.
I then inquired as to the vessels which lay at present in the port of London."
"Yes?" "The 'Lone Star' had arrived here last
I went down to the Albert Dock and found that she had been taken down the river by
the early tide this morning, homeward bound to Savannah.
I wired to Gravesend and learned that she had passed some time ago, and as the wind
is easterly I have no doubt that she is now past the Goodwins and not very far from the
Isle of Wight."
"What will you do, then?" "Oh, I have my hand upon him.
He and the two mates, are as I learn, the only native-born Americans in the ship.
The others are Finns and Germans.
I know, also, that they were all three away from the ship last night.
I had it from the stevedore who has been loading their cargo.
By the time that their sailing-ship reaches Savannah the mail-boat will have carried
this letter, and the cable will have informed the police of Savannah that these
three gentlemen are badly wanted here upon a charge of murder."
There is ever a flaw, however, in the best laid of human plans, and the murderers of
John Openshaw were never to receive the orange pips which would show them that
another, as cunning and as resolute as themselves, was upon their track.
Very long and very severe were the equinoctial gales that year.
We waited long for news of the "Lone Star" of Savannah, but none ever reached us.
We did at last hear that somewhere far out in the Atlantic a shattered stern-post of a
boat was seen swinging in the trough of a wave, with the letters "L. S." carved upon
it, and that is all which we shall ever know of the fate of the "Lone Star."
Isa Whitney, brother of the late Elias Whitney, D.D., Principal of the Theological
College of St. George's, was much addicted to opium.
The habit grew upon him, as I understand, from some foolish freak when he was at
college; for having read De Quincey's description of his dreams and sensations,
he had drenched his tobacco with laudanum in an attempt to produce the same effects.
He found, as so many more have done, that the practice is easier to attain than to
get rid of, and for many years he continued to be a slave to the drug, an object of
mingled horror and pity to his friends and relatives.
I can see him now, with yellow, pasty face, drooping lids, and pin-point pupils, all
huddled in a chair, the wreck and ruin of a noble man.
One night--it was in June, '89--there came a ring to my bell, about the hour when a
man gives his first yawn and glances at the clock.
I sat up in my chair, and my wife laid her needle-work down in her lap and made a
little face of disappointment. "A patient!" said she.
"You'll have to go out."
I groaned, for I was newly come back from a weary day.
We heard the door open, a few hurried words, and then quick steps upon the
Our own door flew open, and a lady, clad in some dark-coloured stuff, with a black
veil, entered the room.
"You will excuse my calling so late," she began, and then, suddenly losing her self-
control, she ran forward, threw her arms about my wife's neck, and sobbed upon her
"Oh, I'm in such trouble!" she cried; "I do so want a little help."
"Why," said my wife, pulling up her veil, "it is Kate Whitney.
How you startled me, Kate!
I had not an idea who you were when you came in."
"I didn't know what to do, so I came straight to you."
That was always the way.
Folk who were in grief came to my wife like birds to a light-house.
"It was very sweet of you to come.
Now, you must have some wine and water, and sit here comfortably and tell us all about
it. Or should you rather that I sent James off
to bed?"
"Oh, no, no! I want the doctor's advice and help, too.
It's about Isa. He has not been home for two days.
I am so frightened about him!"
It was not the first time that she had spoken to us of her husband's trouble, to
me as a doctor, to my wife as an old friend and school companion.
We soothed and comforted her by such words as we could find.
Did she know where her husband was? Was it possible that we could bring him
back to her?
It seems that it was. She had the surest information that of late
he had, when the fit was on him, made use of an opium den in the farthest east of the
Hitherto his orgies had always been confined to one day, and he had come back,
twitching and shattered, in the evening.
But now the spell had been upon him eight- and-forty hours, and he lay there,
doubtless among the dregs of the docks, breathing in the poison or sleeping off the
There he was to be found, she was sure of it, at the Bar of Gold, in Upper Swandam
Lane. But what was she to do?
How could she, a young and timid woman, make her way into such a place and pluck
her husband out from among the ruffians who surrounded him?
There was the case, and of course there was but one way out of it.
Might I not escort her to this place? And then, as a second thought, why should
she come at all?
I was Isa Whitney's medical adviser, and as such I had influence over him.
I could manage it better if I were alone.
I promised her on my word that I would send him home in a cab within two hours if he
were indeed at the address which she had given me.
And so in ten minutes I had left my armchair and cheery sitting-room behind me,
and was speeding eastward in a hansom on a strange errand, as it seemed to me at the
time, though the future only could show how strange it was to be.
But there was no great difficulty in the first stage of my adventure.
Upper Swandam Lane is a vile alley lurking behind the high wharves which line the
north side of the river to the east of London Bridge.
Between a slop-shop and a gin-shop, approached by a steep flight of steps
leading down to a black gap like the mouth of a cave, I found the den of which I was
in search.
Ordering my cab to wait, I passed down the steps, worn hollow in the centre by the
ceaseless tread of drunken feet; and by the light of a flickering oil-lamp above the
door I found the latch and made my way into
a long, low room, thick and heavy with the brown opium smoke, and terraced with wooden
berths, like the forecastle of an emigrant ship.
Through the gloom one could dimly catch a glimpse of bodies lying in strange
fantastic poses, bowed shoulders, bent knees, heads thrown back, and chins
pointing upward, with here and there a
dark, lack-lustre eye turned upon the newcomer.
Out of the black shadows there glimmered little red circles of light, now bright,
now faint, as the burning poison waxed or waned in the bowls of the metal pipes.
The most lay silent, but some muttered to themselves, and others talked together in a
strange, low, monotonous voice, their conversation coming in gushes, and then
suddenly tailing off into silence, each
mumbling out his own thoughts and paying little heed to the words of his neighbour.
At the farther end was a small brazier of burning charcoal, beside which on a three-
legged wooden stool there sat a tall, thin old man, with his jaw resting upon his two
fists, and his elbows upon his knees, staring into the fire.
As I entered, a sallow Malay attendant had hurried up with a pipe for me and a supply
of the drug, beckoning me to an empty berth.
"Thank you.
I have not come to stay," said I. "There is a friend of mine here, Mr. Isa
Whitney, and I wish to speak with him."
There was a movement and an exclamation from my right, and peering through the
gloom, I saw Whitney, pale, haggard, and unkempt, staring out at me.
"My God!
It's Watson," said he. He was in a pitiable state of reaction,
with every nerve in a twitter. "I say, Watson, what o'clock is it?"
"Nearly eleven."
"Of what day?" "Of Friday, June 19th."
"Good heavens! I thought it was Wednesday.
It is Wednesday.
What d'you want to frighten a chap for?" He sank his face onto his arms and began to
sob in a high treble key. "I tell you that it is Friday, man.
Your wife has been waiting this two days for you.
You should be ashamed of yourself!" "So I am.
But you've got mixed, Watson, for I have only been here a few hours, three pipes,
four pipes--I forget how many. But I'll go home with you.
I wouldn't frighten Kate--poor little Kate.
Give me your hand! Have you a cab?"
"Yes, I have one waiting." "Then I shall go in it.
But I must owe something.
Find what I owe, Watson. I am all off colour.
I can do nothing for myself."
I walked down the narrow passage between the double row of sleepers, holding my
breath to keep out the vile, stupefying fumes of the drug, and looking about for
the manager.
As I passed the tall man who sat by the brazier I felt a sudden pluck at my skirt,
and a low voice whispered, "Walk past me, and then look back at me."
The words fell quite distinctly upon my ear.
I glanced down.
They could only have come from the old man at my side, and yet he sat now as absorbed
as ever, very thin, very wrinkled, bent with age, an opium pipe dangling down from
between his knees, as though it had dropped in sheer lassitude from his fingers.
I took two steps forward and looked back.
It took all my self-control to prevent me from breaking out into a cry of
astonishment. He had turned his back so that none could
see him but I.
His form had filled out, his wrinkles were gone, the dull eyes had regained their
fire, and there, sitting by the fire and grinning at my surprise, was none other
than Sherlock Holmes.
He made a slight motion to me to approach him, and instantly, as he turned his face
half round to the company once more, subsided into a doddering, loose-lipped
"Holmes!" I whispered, "what on earth are you doing
in this den?" "As low as you can," he answered; "I have
excellent ears.
If you would have the great kindness to get rid of that sottish friend of yours I
should be exceedingly glad to have a little talk with you."
"I have a cab outside."
"Then pray send him home in it. You may safely trust him, for he appears to
be too limp to get into any mischief.
I should recommend you also to send a note by the cabman to your wife to say that you
have thrown in your lot with me. If you will wait outside, I shall be with
you in five minutes."
It was difficult to refuse any of Sherlock Holmes' requests, for they were always so
exceedingly definite, and put forward with such a quiet air of mastery.
I felt, however, that when Whitney was once confined in the cab my mission was
practically accomplished; and for the rest, I could not wish anything better than to be
associated with my friend in one of those
singular adventures which were the normal condition of his existence.
In a few minutes I had written my note, paid Whitney's bill, led him out to the
cab, and seen him driven through the darkness.
In a very short time a decrepit figure had emerged from the opium den, and I was
walking down the street with Sherlock Holmes.
For two streets he shuffled along with a bent back and an uncertain foot.
Then, glancing quickly round, he straightened himself out and burst into a
hearty fit of laughter.
"I suppose, Watson," said he, "that you imagine that I have added opium-smoking to
cocaine injections, and all the other little weaknesses on which you have
favoured me with your medical views."
"I was certainly surprised to find you there."
"But not more so than I to find you." "I came to find a friend."
"And I to find an enemy."
"An enemy?" "Yes; one of my natural enemies, or, shall
I say, my natural prey.
Briefly, Watson, I am in the midst of a very remarkable inquiry, and I have hoped
to find a clue in the incoherent ramblings of these sots, as I have done before now.
Had I been recognised in that den my life would not have been worth an hour's
purchase; for I have used it before now for my own purposes, and the rascally Lascar
who runs it has sworn to have vengeance upon me.
There is a trap-door at the back of that building, near the corner of Paul's Wharf,
which could tell some strange tales of what has passed through it upon the moonless
"What! You do not mean bodies?"
"Ay, bodies, Watson.
We should be rich men if we had 1000 pounds for every poor devil who has been done to
death in that den.
It is the vilest murder-trap on the whole riverside, and I fear that Neville St.
Clair has entered it never to leave it more.
But our trap should be here."
He put his two forefingers between his teeth and whistled shrilly--a signal which
was answered by a similar whistle from the distance, followed shortly by the rattle of
wheels and the clink of horses' hoofs.
"Now, Watson," said Holmes, as a tall dog- cart dashed up through the gloom, throwing
out two golden tunnels of yellow light from its side lanterns.
"You'll come with me, won't you?"
"If I can be of use." "Oh, a trusty comrade is always of use; and
a chronicler still more so. My room at The Cedars is a double-bedded
"The Cedars?" "Yes; that is Mr. St. Clair's house.
I am staying there while I conduct the inquiry."
"Where is it, then?"
"Near Lee, in Kent. We have a seven-mile drive before us."
"But I am all in the dark." "Of course you are.
You'll know all about it presently.
Jump up here. All right, John; we shall not need you.
Here's half a crown. Look out for me to-morrow, about eleven.
Give her her head.
So long, then!"
He flicked the horse with his whip, and we dashed away through the endless succession
of sombre and deserted streets, which widened gradually, until we were flying
across a broad balustraded bridge, with the murky river flowing sluggishly beneath us.
Beyond lay another dull wilderness of bricks and mortar, its silence broken only
by the heavy, regular footfall of the policeman, or the songs and shouts of some
belated party of revellers.
A dull wrack was drifting slowly across the sky, and a star or two twinkled dimly here
and there through the rifts of the clouds.
Holmes drove in silence, with his head sunk upon his breast, and the air of a man who
is lost in thought, while I sat beside him, curious to learn what this new quest might
be which seemed to tax his powers so
sorely, and yet afraid to break in upon the current of his thoughts.
We had driven several miles, and were beginning to get to the fringe of the belt
of suburban villas, when he shook himself, shrugged his shoulders, and lit up his pipe
with the air of a man who has satisfied himself that he is acting for the best.
"You have a grand gift of silence, Watson," said he.
"It makes you quite invaluable as a companion.
'Pon my word, it is a great thing for me to have someone to talk to, for my own
thoughts are not over-pleasant.
I was wondering what I should say to this dear little woman to-night when she meets
me at the door." "You forget that I know nothing about it."
"I shall just have time to tell you the facts of the case before we get to Lee.
It seems absurdly simple, and yet, somehow I can get nothing to go upon.
There's plenty of thread, no doubt, but I can't get the end of it into my hand.
Now, I'll state the case clearly and concisely to you, Watson, and maybe you can
see a spark where all is dark to me."
"Proceed, then." "Some years ago--to be definite, in May,
1884--there came to Lee a gentleman, Neville St. Clair by name, who appeared to
have plenty of money.
He took a large villa, laid out the grounds very nicely, and lived generally in good