The Adventure of the ‘Gloria Scott’

"I've not had my 'pology," said he sulkily, glancing in my direction

“I have some papers here,” said my friend Sherlock Holmes as we sat one winter’s night on either side of the fire, “which I really think, Watson, that it would be worth your while to glance over. These are the documents in the extraordinary case of the Gloria Scott, and this is the message which struck Justice of the Peace Trevor dead with horror when he read it.”

He had picked from a drawer a little tarnished cylinder, and. undoing the tape, he handed me a short note scrawled upon a half-sheet of slate-gray paper.

The supply of game for London is going steadily up {it
ran]. Head-keeper Hudson, we believe, has been now told to
receive all orders for fly-paper and for preservation of your
hen-pheasant’s life.

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 documents 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 consideration, 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 understood, from a former occupant, and a tolerable cook, so that he would be a fastidious man who could not put in a pleasant month there.

“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 considerable 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 anything 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 surprise.

” ‘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 flattening 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 someone 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 faint.

“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 else.

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