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Adventure IV. The “Gloria Scott”

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, had been now

  told to receive all orders for fly-paper and for

  preservation of you 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


  “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


  I had often endeavored to elicit from my companion

  what had first turned is mind in the direction of

  criminal research, but had never caught him before in

  a communicative humor. Now he sat forward in this arm

  chair 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 pints 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,

  but 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


  “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

  and old-fashioned, wide-spread, 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


  “Trevor senior was a widower, and my friend his only


  “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 traveled 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 country-side, 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


  “‘Come, now, Mr. Holmes,’ said he, laughing

  good-humoredly. ‘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 with 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


  “‘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 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 you 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.

  “‘I hope that I have said nothing to pain you?’ said


  “‘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 staining

  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 forget them.’

  “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 lovers 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, and

  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.


  “‘What is his name?’ asked my host.

  “‘He would not give any.’

  “‘What does he want, then?’

  “‘He says that you know him, and that he only wants a

  moment’s conversation.’

  “‘Show him round here.’ An instant afterwards there

  appeared a little wizened fellow with a cringing

  manner and a shambling style of walking. He wore an

  open jacket, with a splotch of tar on the sleeve, a

  red-and-black check shirt, dungaree trousers, and

  heavy boots badly worn. His face was thin and brown

  and crafty, with a perpetual smile upon it, which

  showed an irregular line of yellow teeth, and his

  crinkled hands were half closed in a way that is

  distinctive of sailors. As he came slouching across

  the lawn I heard Mr. Trevor make a sort of hiccoughing

  noise in his throat, and jumping out of his chair, he

  ran into the house. He was back in a moment, and I

  smelt a strong reek of brandy as he passed me.

  “‘Well, my man,’ said he. ‘What can I do for you?’

  “The sailor stood looking at him with puckered eyes,

  and with the same loose-lipped smile upon his face.

  “‘You don’t know me?’ he asked.

  “‘Why, dear me, it is surely Hudson,’ said Mr. Trevor

  in a tone of surprise.

  “‘Hudson it is, sir,’ said the seaman. ‘Why, it’s

  thirty year and more since I saw you last. Here you

  are in your house, and me still picking my salt meat

  out of the harness cask.’

  “‘Tut, you will find that I have not forgotten old

  times,’ cried Mr. Trevor, and, walking towards the

  sailor, he said something in a low voice. ‘Go into

  the kitchen,’ he continued out loud, ‘and you will get

  food and drink. I have no doubt that I shall find you

  a situation.’

  “‘Thank you, sir,’ said the seaman, touching his

  fore-lock. ‘I’m just off a two-yearer in an

  eight-knot tramp, short-handed at that, and I wants a

  rest. I thought I’d get it either with Mr. Beddoes or

  with you.’

  “‘Ah!’ cried Trevor. ‘You know where Mr. Beddoes is?’

  “‘Bless you, sir, I know where all my old friends

  are,’ said the fellow with a sinister smile, and he

  slouched off after the maid to the kitchen. Mr.

  Trevor mumbled something to us about having been

  shipmate with the man when he was going back to the

  diggings, and then, leaving us on the lawn, he went

  indoors. An hour later, when we entered the house, we

  found him stretched dead drunk upon the dining-room

  sofa. The whole incident left a most ugly impression

  upon my mind, and I was not sorry next day to leave

  Donnithorpe behind me, for I felt that my presence

  must be a source of embarrassment to my friend.

  “All this occurred during the first month of the long

  vacation. I went up to my London rooms, where I spent

  seven weeks working out a few experiments in organic

  chemistry. On day, however, when the autumn was far

  advanced and the vacation drawing to a close, I

  received a telegram from my friend imploring me to

  return to Donnithorpe, and saying that he was in great

  need of my advice and assistance. Of course I dropped

  everything and set out for the North once more.

  “He met me with the dog-cart at the station, and I saw

  at a glance that the last two months had been very

  trying ones for him. He had grown thin and careworn,

  and had lost the loud, cheery manner for which he had

  been remarkable.

  “‘The governor is dying,’ were the first words he


  “‘Impossible!’ I cried. ‘What is the matter?’

  “‘Apoplexy. Nervous shock, He’s been on the verge

  all day. I doubt if we shall find him alive.’

  “I was, as you may think, Watson, horrified at this

  unexpected news.

  “‘What has caused it?’ I asked.

  “‘Ah, that is the point. Jump in and we can talk it

  over while we drive. You remember that fellow who

  came upon the evening before you left us?’


  “‘Do you know who it was that we let into the house

  that day?’

  “‘I have no idea.’

  “‘It was the devil, Holmes,’ he cried.

  “I stared at him in astonishment.

  “‘Yes, it was the devil himself. We have not had a

  peaceful hour since–not one. The governor has never

  held up his head from that evening, and now the life

  has been crushed out of him and his heart broken, all

  through this accursed Hudson.’

  “‘What power had he, then?’

  “‘Ah, that is what I would give so much to know. The

  kindly, charitable, good old governor–how could he

  have fallen into the clutches of such a ruffian! But

  I am so glad that you have come, Holmes. I trust very

  much to your judgment and discretion, and I know that

  you will advise me for the best.’

  “We were dashing along the smooth white country road,

  with the long stretch of the Broads in front of us

  glimmering in the red light of the setting sun. From

  a grove upon our left I could already see the high

  chimneys and the flag-staff which marked the squire’s


  “‘My father made the fellow gardener,’ said my

  companion, ‘and then, as that did not satisfy him, he

  was promoted to be butler. The house seemed to be at

  his mercy, and he wandered about and did what he chose

  in it. The maids complained of his drunken habits and

  his vile language. The dad raised their wages all

  round to recompense them for the annoyance. The

  fellow would take the boat and my father’s best gun

  and treat himself to little shooting trips. And all

  this with such a sneering, leering, insolent face that

  I would have knocked him down twenty times over if he

  had been a man of my own age. I tell you, Holmes, I

  have had to keep a tight hold upon myself all this

  time; and now I am asking myself whether, if I had let

  myself go a little more, I might not have been a wiser


  “‘Well, matters went from bad to worse with us, and

  this animal Hudson became more and more intrusive,

  until at last, on making some insolent reply to my

  father in my presence one day, I took him by the

  shoulders and turned him out of the room. He slunk

  away with a livid face and two venomous eyes which

  uttered more threats than his tongue could do. I

  don’t know what passed between the poor dad and him

  after that, but the dad came to me next day and asked

  me whether I would mind apologizing to Hudson. I

  refused, as you can imagine, and asked my father how

  he could allow such a wretch to take such liberties

  with himself and his household.

  “‘”Ah, my boy,” said he, “it is all very well to talk,

  but you don’t know how I am placed. But you shall

  know, Victor. I’ll see that you shall know, come what

  may. You wouldn’t believe harm of your poor old

  father, would you, lad?” He was very much moved, and

  shut himself up in the study all day, where I could

  see through the window that he was writing busily.

  “‘That evening there came what seemed to me to be a

  grand release, for Hudson told us that he was going to

  leave us. He walked into the dining-room as we sat

  after dinner, and announced his intention in the thick

  voice of a half-drunken man.

  “‘”I’ve had enough of Norfolk,” said he. “I’ll run

  down to Mr. Beddoes in Hampshire. He’ll be as glad to

  see me as you were, I dare say.”

  “‘”You’re not going away in any kind of spirit,

  Hudson, I hope,” said my father, with a tameness which

  mad my blood boil.

  “‘”I’ve not had my ‘pology,” said he sulkily, glancing

  in my direction.

  “‘”Victor, you will acknowledge that you have used

  this worthy fellow rather roughly,” said the dad,

  turning to me.

  “‘”On the contrary, I think that we have both shown

  extraordinary patience towards him,” I answered.

  “‘”Oh, you do, do you?” he snarls. “Very good, mate. 

  We’ll see about that!”

  “‘He slouched out of the room, and half an hour

  afterwards left the house, leaving my father in a

  state of pitiable nervousness. Night after night I

  heard him pacing his room, and it was just as he was

  recovering his confidence that the blow did at last


  “‘And how?’ I asked eagerly.

  “‘In a most extraordinary fashion. A letter arrived

  for my father yesterday evening, bearing the

  Fordingbridge post-mark. My father read it, clapped

  both his hands to his head, and began running round

  the room in little circles like a man who has been

  driven out of his senses. When I at last drew him

  down on to the sofa, his mouth and eyelids were all

  puckered on one side, and I saw that he had a stroke. 

  Dr. Fordham came over at once. We put him to bed; but

  the paralysis has spread, he has shown no sign of

  returning consciousness, and I think that we shall

  hardly find him alive.’

  “‘You horrify me, Trevor!’ I cried. ‘What then could

  have been in this letter to cause so dreadful a


  “‘Nothing. There lies the inexplicable part of it. 

  The message was absurd and trivial. Ah, my God, it is

  as I feared!’

  “As he spoke we came round the curve of the avenue,

  and saw in the fading light that every blind in the

  house had been drawn down. As we dashed up to the

  door, my friend’s face convulsed with grief, a

  gentleman in black emerged from it.

  “‘When did it happen, doctor?’ asked Trevor.

  “‘Almost immediately after you left.’

  “‘Did he recover consciousness?’

  “‘For an instant before the end.’

  “‘Any message for me.’

  “‘Only that the papers were in the back drawer of the

  Japanese cabinet.’

  “My friend ascended with the doctor to the chamber of

  death, while I remained in the study, turning the

  whole matter over and over in my head, and feeling as

  sombre as ever I had done in my life. What was the

  past of this Trevor, pugilist, traveler, and

  gold-digger, and how had he placed himself in the

  power of this acid-faced seaman? Why, too, should he

  faint at an allusion to the half-effaced initials upon

  his arm, and die of fright when he had a letter from

  Fordingham? Then I remembered that Fordingham was in

  Hampshire, and that this Mr. Beddoes, whom the seaman

  had gone to visit and presumably to blackmail, had

  also been mentio 

ned as living in Hampshire. The

  letter, then, might either come from Hudson, the

  seaman, saying that he had betrayed the guilty secret

  which appeared to exist, or it might come from

  Beddoes, warning an old confederate that such a

  betrayal was imminent. So far it seemed clear enough. 

  But then how could this letter be trivial and

  grotesque, as describe by the son? He must have

  misread it. If so, it must have been one of those

  ingenious secret codes which mean one thing while they

  seem to mean another. I must see this letter. If

  there were a hidden meaning in it, I was confident

  that I could pluck it forth. For an hour I sat

  pondering over it in the gloom, until at last a

  weeping maid brought in a lamp, and close at her heels

  came my friend Trevor, pale but composed, with these

  very papers which lie upon my knee held in his grasp. 

  He sat down opposite to me, drew the lamp to the edge

  of the table, and handed me a short note scribbled, as

  you see, upon a single sheet of 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 you hen-pheasant’s life.’

  “I dare say my face looked as bewildered as your did

  just now when first I read this message. Then I

  reread it very carefully. It was evidently as I had

  thought, and some secret meaning must lie buried in

  this strange combination of words. Or could it be

  that there was a prearranged significance to such

  phrases as ‘fly-paper’ and hen-pheasant’? Such a

  meaning would be arbitrary and could not be deduced in

  any way. And yet I was loath to believe that this was

  the case, and the presence of the word Hudson seemed

  to show that the subject of the message was as I had

  guessed, and that it was from Beddoes rather than the

  sailor. I tried it backwards, but the combination

  ‘life pheasant’s hen’ was not encouraging. Then I

  tried alternate words, but neither ‘the of for’ nor

  ‘supply game London’ promised to throw any light upon


  “And then in an instant the key of the riddle was in

  my hands, and I saw that every third word, beginning

  with the first, would give a message which might well

  drive old Trevor to despair.

  “It was short and terse, the warning, as I now read it

  to my companion:

  “‘The game is up. Hudson has told all. Fly for your


  “Victor Trevor sank his face into his shaking hands,

  ‘It must be that, I suppose,’ said he. “This is worse

  than death, for it means disgrace as well. But what

  is the meaning of these “head-keepers” and


  “‘It means nothing to the message, but it might mean a

  good deal to us if we had no other means of

  discovering the sender. You see that he has begun by

  writing “The…game…is,” and so on. Afterwards he

  had, to fulfill the prearranged cipher, to fill in any

  two words in each space. He would naturally use the

  first words which came to his mind, and if there were

  so many which referred to sport among them, you may be

  tolerably sure that he is either an ardent shot or

  interested in breeding. Do you know anything of this


  “‘Why, now that you mention it,’ said he, ‘I remember

  that my poor father used to have an invitation from

  him to shoot over his preserves every autumn.’

  “‘Then it is undoubtedly from him that the note

  comes,’ said I. ‘It only remains for us to find out

  what this secret was which the sailor Hudson seems to

  have held over the heads of these two wealthy and

  respected men.’

  “‘Alas, Holmes, I fear that it is one of sin and

  shame!’ cried my friend. ‘But from you I shall have

  no secrets. Here is the statement which was drawn up

  by my father when he knew that the danger from Hudson

  had become imminent. I found it in the Japanese

  cabinet, as he told the doctor. Take it and read it

  to me, for I have neither the strength nor the courage

  to do it myself.’

  “These are the very papers, Watson, which he handed to

  me, and I will read them to you, as I read them in the

  old study that night to him. They are endorsed

  outside, as you see, ‘Some particulars of the voyage

of the bark Gloria Scott, from her leaving Falmouth on

  the 8th October, 1855, to her destruction in N. Lat.

  15 degrees 20′, W. Long. 25 degrees 14′ on Nov. 6th.’

  It is in the form of a letter, and runs in this way:

  “‘My dear, dear son, now that approaching disgrace

  begins to darken the closing years of my life, I can

  write with all truth and honesty that it is not the

  terror of the law, it is not the loss of my position

  in the county, nor is it my fall in the eyes of all

  who have known me, which cuts me to the heart; but it

  is the thought that you should come to blush for

  me–you who love me and who have seldom, I hope, had

  reason to do other than respect me. But if the blow

  falls which is forever hanging over me, then I should

  wish you to read this, that you may know straight from

  me how far I have been to blame. On the other hand,

  if all should go well (which may kind God Almighty

  grant!), then if by any chance this paper should be

  still undestroyed and should fall into your hands, I

  conjure you, by all you hold sacred, by the memory of

  your dear mother, and by the love which had been

  between us, to hurl it into the fire and to never give

  one thought to it again.

  “‘If then your eye goes onto read this line, I know

  that I shall already have been exposed and dragged

  from my home, or as is more likely, for you know that

  my heart is weak, by lying with my tongue sealed

  forever in death. In either case the time for

  suppression is past, and every word which I tell you

  is the naked truth, and this I swear as I hope for


  “‘My name, dear lad, is not Trevor. I was James

  Armitage in my younger days, and you can understand

  now the shock that it was to me a few weeks ago when

  your college friend addressed me in words which seemed

  to imply that he had surprised my secret. As Armitage

  it was that I entered a London banking-house, and as

  Armitage I was convicted of breaking my country’s

  laws, and was sentenced to transportation. Do not

  think very harshly of me, laddie. It was a debt of

  honor, so called, which I had to pay, and I used money

  which was not my own to do it, in the certainty that I

  could replace it before there could be any possibility

  of its being missed. But the most dreadful ill-luck

  pursued me. The money which I had reckoned upon never

  came to hand, and a premature examination of accounts

  exposed my deficit. The case might have been dealt

  leniently with, but the laws were more harshly

  administered thirty years ago than now, and on my

  twenty-third birthday I found myself chained as a

  felon with thirty-seven other convicts in ‘tween-decks

  of the bark Gloria Scott, bound for Australia.

  “‘It was the year ’55 when the Crimean war was at its

  height, and the old convict sips had been largely used

  as transports in the Black Sea. The government was

  compelled, therefore, to use smaller and less suitable

  vessels for sending out their prisoners. The Gloria

  Scott had been in the Chinese tea-trade, but she was

  an old-fashioned, heavy-bowed, broad-beamed craft, and

  the new clippers had cut her out. She was a

  five-hundred-ton boat; and besides her thirty-eight

  jail-birds, she carried twenty-six of a crew, eighteen

  soldiers, a captain, three mates, a doctor, a

  chaplain, and four warders. Nearly a hundred souls

  were in her, all told, when we set said from Falmouth.

  “‘The partitions between the cells of the convicts,

  instead of being of thick oak, as is usual in

  convict-ships, were quite thin and frail. The man

  next to me, upon the aft side, was one whom I had

  particularly noticed when we were led down the quay. 

  He was a young man with a clear, hairless face, a

  long, thin nose, and rather nut-cracker jaws. He

  carried his head very jauntily in the air, had a

  swaggering style of walking, and was, above all else,

  remarkable for his extraordinary height. I don’t

  think any of our heads would have come up to his

  shoulder, and I am sure that he could not have

  measured less than six and a half feet. It was

  strange among so many sad and weary faces to see one

  which was full of energy and resolution. The sight of

  it was to me like a fire in a snow-storm. I was glad,

  then, to find that he was my neighbor, and gladder

  still when, in the dead of the night, I heard a

  whisper close to my ear, and found that he had managed

  to cut an opening in the board which separated us.

  “‘”Hullo, chummy!” said he, “what’s your name, and

  what are you here for?”

  “‘I answered him, and asked in turn who I was talking


  “‘”I’m Jack Prendergast,” said he, “and by God! You’ll

  learn to bless my name before you’ve done with me.”

  “‘I remembered hearing of his case, for it was one

  which had made an immense sensation throughout the

  country some time before my own arrest. He was a man

  of good family and of great ability, but on incurably

  vicious habits, who had be an ingenious system of

  fraud obtained huge sums of money from the leading

  London merchants.

  “‘”Ha, ha! You remember my case!” said he proudly.

  “‘”Very well, indeed.”

  “‘”Then maybe you remember something queer about it?”

  “‘”What was that, then?”

  “‘”I’d had nearly a quarter of a million, hadn’t I?”

  “‘”So it was said.”

  “‘”But none was recovered, eh?”


  “‘”Well, where d’ye suppose the balance is?” he asked.

  “‘”I have no idea,” said I.

  “‘”Right between my finger and thumb,” he cried. “By

  God! I’ve go more pounds to my name than you’ve hairs

  on your head. And if you’ve money, my son, and know

  how to handle it and spread it, you can do anything. 

  Now, you don’t think it likely that a man who could do

  anything is going to wear his breeches out sitting in

  the stinking hold of a rat-gutted, beetle-ridden,

  mouldy old coffin of a Chin China coaster. No, sir,

  such a man will look after himself and will look after

  his chums. You may lay to that! You hold on to him,

  and you may kiss the book that he’ll haul you


  “‘That was his style of talk, and at first I thought

  it meant nothing; but after a while, when he had

  tested me and sworn me in with all possible solemnity,

  he let me understand that there really was a plot to

  gain command of the vessel. A dozen of the prisoners

  had hatched it before they came aboard, Prendergast

  was the leader, and his money was the motive power.

  “‘”I’d a partner,” said he, “a rare good man, as true

  as a stock to a barrel. He’s got the dibbs, he has,

  and where do you think he is at this moment? Why,

  he’s the chaplain of this ship–the chaplain, no less! 

  He came aboard with a black coat, and his papers

right, and money enough in his box to buy the thing

  right up from keel to main-truck. The crew are his,

  body and soul. He could buy ’em at so much a gross

  with a cash discount, and he did it before ever they

  signed on. He’s got two of the warders and Mereer,

  the second mate, and he’d get the captain himself, if

  he thought him worth it.”

  “‘”What are we to do, then?” I asked.

  “‘”What do you think?” said he. “We’ll make the coats

  of some of these soldiers redder than ever the tailor


  “‘”But they are armed,” said I.

  “‘”And so shall we be, my boy. There’s a brace of

  pistols for every mother’s son of us, and if we can’t

  carry this ship, with the crew at our back, it’s time

  we were all sent to a young misses’ boarding-school. 

  You speak to your mate upon the left to-night, and see

  if he is to be trusted.”

  “‘I did so, and found my other neighbor to be a young

  fellow in much the same position as myself, whose

  crime had been forgery. His name was Evans, but he

  afterwards changed it, like myself, and his is now a

  rich and prosperous man in the south of England. He

  was ready enough to join the conspiracy, as the only

  means of saving ourselves, and before we had crossed

  the Bay there were only two of the prisoners who were

  not in the secret. One of these was of weak mind, and

  we did not dare to trust him, and the other was

  suffering from jaundice, and could not be of any use

  to us.

  “‘From the beginning there was really nothing to

  prevent us from taking possession of the ship. The

  crew were a set of ruffians, specially picked for the

  job. The sham chaplain came into our cells to exhort

  us, carrying a black bag, supposed to be full of

  tracts, and so often did he come that by the third day

  we had each stowed away at the foot of our beds a

  file, a brace of pistols, a pound of powder, and

  twenty slugs. Two of the warders were agents of

  Prendergast, and the second mate was his right-hand

  man. The captain, the two mates, two warders

  Lieutenant Martin, his eighteen soldiers, and the

  doctor were all that we had against us. Yet, safe as

  it was, we determined to neglect no precaution, and to

  make our attack suddenly by night. It came, however,

  more quickly than we expected, and in this way.

  “‘One evening, about the third week after our start,

  the doctor had come down to see one of the prisoners

  who was ill, and putting his hand down on the bottom

  of his bunk he felt the outline of the pistols. If he

  had been silent he might have blown the whole thing,

  but he was a nervous little chap, so he gave a cry of

  surprise and turned so pale that the man knew what was

  up in an instant and seized him. He was gagged before

  he could give the alarm, and tied down upon the bed. 

  He had unlocked the door that led to the deck, and we

  were through it in a rush. The two sentries were shot

  down, and so was a corporal who came running to see

  what was the matter. There were two more soldiers at

  the door of the state-room, and their muskets seemed

  not to be loaded, for they never fired upon us, and

  they were shot while trying to fix their bayonets. 

  Then we rushed on into the captain’s cabin, but as we

  pushed open the door there was an explosion from

  within, and there he lay wit his brains smeared over

  the chart of the Atlantic which was pinned upon the

  table, while the chaplain stood with a smoking pistol

  in his hand at his elbow. The two mates had both been

  seized by the crew, and the whole business seemed to

  be settled.

  “‘The state-room was next the cabin, and we flocked in

  there and flopped down on the settees, all speaking

  together, for we were just mad with the feeling that

  we were free once more. There were lockers all round,

  and Wilson, the sham chaplain, knocked one of them in,

  and pulled out a dozen of brown sherry. We cracked

  off the necks of the bottles, poured the stuff out

  into tumblers, and were just tossing them off, when in

  an instant without warning there came the roar of

  muskets in our ears, and the saloon was so full of

  smoke that we could not see across the table. When it

  cleared again the place was a shambles. Wilson and

  eight others were wriggling on the top of each other

  on the floor, and the blood and the brown sherry on

  that table turn me sick now when I think of it. We

  were so cowed by the sight that I think we should have

  given the job up if had not been for Prendergast. He

  bellowed like a bull and rushed for the door with all

  that were left alive at his heels. Out we ran, and

  there on the poop were the lieutenent and ten of his

  men. The swing skylights above the saloon table had

  been a bit open, and they had fired on us through the

  slit. We got on them before they could load, and they

  stood to it like men; but we had the upper hand of

  them, and in five minutes it was all over. My God!

  Was there ever a slaughter-house like that ship! 

  Predergast was like a raging deveil, and he picked the

  soldiers up as if they had been children and threw

  them overboard alive or dead. There was one sergeant

  that was horribly wounded and yet kept on swimming for

  a surprising time, until some one in mercy blew out

  his brains. When the fighting was over there was no

  one left of our enemies except just the warders the

  mates, and the doctor.

  “‘It was over them that the great quarrel arose. 

  There were many of us who were glad enough to win back

  our freedom, and yet who had no wish to have murder on

  our souls. It was one thing to knock the soldiers

  over with their muskets in their hands, and it was

  another to stand by while men were being killed in

  cold blood. Eight of us, five convicts and three

  sailors, said that we would not see it done. But

  there was no moving Predergast and those who were with

  him. Our only chance of safety lay in making a clean

  job of it, said he, and he would not leave a tongue

  with power to wag in a witness-box. It nearly came to

  our sharing the fate of the prisoners, but at last he

  said that if we wished we might take a boat and go. 

  We jumped at the offer, for we were already sick of

  these blookthirsty doings, and we saw that there would

  be worse before it was done. We were given a suit of

  sailor togs each, a barrel of water, two casks, one of

  junk and one of biscuits, and a compass. Prendergast

  threw us over a chart, told us that we were

  shipwrecked mariners whose ship had foundered in Lat.

  15 degrees and Long 25 degrees west, and then cut the painter and

  let us go.

  “‘And now I come to the most surprising part of my

  story, my dear son. The seamen had hauled the

  fore-yard aback during the rising, 

but now as we left

  them they brought it square again, and as there was a

  light wind from the north and east the bark began to

  draw slowly away from us. Our boat lay, rising and

  falling, upon the long, smooth rollers, and Evans and

  I, who were the most educated of the party, were

  sitting in the sheets working out our position and

  planning what coast we should make for. It was a nice

  question, for the Cape de Verds were about five

  hundred miles to the north of us, and the African

  coast about seven hundred to the east. On the whole,

  as the wind was coming round to the north, we thought

  that Sierra Leone might be best, and turned our head

  in that direction, the bark being at that time nearly

  hull down on our starboard quarter. Suddenly as we

  looked at her we saw a dense black cloud of smoke

  shoot up from her, which hung like a monstrous tree

  upon the sky line. A few seconds later a roar like

  thunder burst upon our ears, and as the smoke thinned

  away there was no sign left of the Gloria Scott. In

  an instant we swept the boat’s head round again and

  pulled with all our strength for the place where the

  haze still trailing over the water marked the scene of

  this catastrophe.

  “‘It was a long hour before we reached it, and at

  first we feared that we had come too late to save any

  one. A splintered boat and a number of crates and

  fragments of spars rising and falling on the waves

  showed us where the vessel had foundered; but there

  was no sign o life, and we had turned away in despair

  when we heard a cry for help, and saw at some distance

  a piece of wreckage with a man lying stretched across

  it. When we pulled him aboard the boat he proved to

  be a young seaman of the name of Hudson, who was so

  burned and exhausted that he could give us no account

  of what had happened until the following morning.

  “‘It seemed that after we had left, Prendergast and

  his gang had proceeded to put to death the five

  remaining prisoners. The two warders had been shot

  and thrown overboard, and so also had the third mate. 

  Prendergast then descended into the ‘tween-decks and

  with his own hands cut the throat of the unfortunate

  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 wit

  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 a 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 I may, it was the end of the Gloria Scott and of

  the rabble who held command of her.

  “‘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 survivors 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 traveled, 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 complaint had been lodged with he

  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.”

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